The small business race

Published 1:23 pm Saturday, January 31, 2015

There’s Jeff — he runs a tile business. And Tim — he owns a restaurant. There’s Butch and Kim — they run an auto business. There’s Reeva — she runs a doughnut shop.

Those are just a few of the small business owners in Virginia’s Fourth District. You could name a bunch too, we all know someone who is a small business owner. We know even more folks who make their living working for a small business.

There are over 28 million small businesses in the United States. Nearly 50 percent of the entire private sector American working population works in a small business, according to data from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

That’s a lot of people. And it’s great, because small businesses pump billions of dollars into our economy each year. According to the SBA, they produce 16 times more patents than larger firms. Small businesses are where you find both the heart of America and the engine that drives our economy and our innovation as a nation. However, as many small businesses continue to innovate, they continue to face abusive patent trolls who try to force small businesses into costly patent lawsuits, which shift investments away from research and development and hiring new employees. That is why we must continue to work in Congress to protect small businesses.

It is because of small business owners that others around the world came to know our nation as the place where dreams turned into reality. Entrepreneurs who embodied the spirit of the American Dream proved that if given the opportunity and the right environment, they could make their dreams come true. All they needed was opportunity. They would take the risks. They would put in the sweat equity. They would give it their all and maybe, just maybe, their dreams would come true.

But today, small business owners are in a race against more than simply the pursuit of their own dreams, or growth goals, or long-term visions for their companies. They compete in a global economy on an international track that has an increasingly unlevel playing field. There is a race that is happening — one that is often hidden or behind the scenes — and the American business owner is the star athlete:

He’s pitted up against a foreign business owner. At the start pistol, the American business owner takes off hustling and comes in several strides ahead of the foreign business owner. Then comes the second lap. He starts his second lap with just as much tenacity, but this time the federal government saddles him with a weight of regulation. He stumbles a few strides, but he keeps going. It’s more work, but he knows he can make it and still beat his foreign competitor if he just puts in some extra effort. Fighting through the extra weight, he pulls slightly ahead of the foreign business owner into the third lap. All eyes are on the two as the American business owner gets saddled with yet another weight, litigation. He slows down but remembers his goals and his dreams and he – by some miracle – musters up the strength to keep running through the final lap. And even with all the additional obstacles and weights put on the American business owner that his competitor doesn’t have, as he crosses the finish line the government says, “Congratulations,” and takes as much as 40 percent of his prize money in taxes.

The race isn’t fair when it’s on an unlevel field. Yet, it is the race millions of American small business owners find themselves running in every day, every year.

Our federal government — with its intricate and increasingly large web of regulations and multitude of taxes — is stifling American business, and along with it, American innovation and global competitiveness.

Those who run small businesses learn this race quickly. They prepare for it. However, even the fastest runner on that racetrack will lose if the federal government keeps putting more weights on him every time he finishes a lap.

The federal government has inserted itself directly in the marketplace, sometimes to a point that is beyond burdensome and downright toxic. With each new overreach of the federal government into the realm of small business, innovation and entrepreneurship in America is stifled.

Today, there are those who are willing to accept these weights our government keeps placing on small businesses. They’ve decided the federal government is the answer. They’ve looked around the track at American businesses and foreign businesses and they’ve shrugged their shoulders. There are those who believe American businesses should just find a way to cope with the weight of these burdens.

But there are those of us who believe Washington needs to send a different message to small business owners; one that shows government will cultivate an environment where small businesses are free to do what they know best: innovate, grow, and create jobs.

That’s why I make it a priority to ease regulatory burdens, provide access to capital, and support small business growth. It’s why I cosponsored the REINS Act (H.R. 427), which reintroduces common sense into the regulatory process by requiring Congress to vote on all new major regulations before they are enforced on citizens and businesses. It’s why I have consistently pushed for a simpler, fairer tax code – including establishing an optional flat tax and reforming the entire tax code. If you’re a small business owner or employed by a small business, you may be interested in reading about my work on those efforts here.

The federal government is characterized as being big, complicated, and painstakingly slow — everything American businesses are not. If we choose to lift those weights from American business owners, then we will certainly find ourselves more competitive, and a pioneer in the next global era of ingenuity.

RANDY FORBES represents Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. For contact information, see