SmallBiz Vote

Debate 3: Candidates aren’t asked, talk small biz anyway

Presidential candidates answer small business questions that aren't asked.

Last night's Presidential debate was presumably the last chance for the candidates to battle over whose policies will best serve small business; the one remaining debate on October 22 will focus on foreign policy. But none of the questions posed to the candidates by citizens in the Hofstra University town hall session yesterday inquired specifically about small business. President Obama and Governor Romney nevertheless managed to make 23 mentions of the term that has been a campaign favorite--Obama 7, Romney 16.

Katie Vlietstra, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association of the Self Employed, who live-Tweeted the debate at @GAatNASE, called the event entertaining television but frustrating for small business owners. Considering that the self-employed account for at least 76 percent of small businesses, Vlietstra said, "It seems to me that both candidates and campaigns are missing the boat when talking about small business."

President Obama claimed that 97 percent of small businesses would not see a tax increase under his plan to reduce tax rates only for individuals earning under $200,000 or families earning under $250,000. But Governor Romney insisted that, under his plan to reduce tax rates for everyone, the top 5 percent of earners in the country "will continue to pay 60 percent" of the national income tax burden ... while "making it easier for small business to keep more of their capital and hire people."

Self-employed advocates appreciated Governor Romney's acknowledgement that 54 percent of America's workers work in businesses that are taxed as individuals, and his statement that "our party has been focused on big business for too long" likely endeared many small business owners.

Vlietstra found Romney's explanation of is idea for a tax deduction "bucket" to be "interesting" but, she said, "You're talking about a self-employed person making $60,000. They don't have that much in deductions. Instead, they want to know, are they able to deduct their health insurance like any other employer?"

Romney's suggestion that middle-income or many self-employed taxpayers would benefit from being exempt from paying any tax on interest on savings dividends or capital gains also seemed a bit out of touch. Most middle-income taxpayers don't have such savings so that the exemption would mean anything to them, Vlietstra said.

There's still hope that the candidates could give small business owners more to chew on before they vote. NASE is waiting for responses to questions it posed to each campaign. And although next week's debate will ask the candidates to discuss foreign policy, "10 days out from the election they'll probably spin their answers out to domestic issues," Vlietstra said.

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