Right now, it's impossible to tell exactly where the candidates stand on issues that small businesses care about because, quite frankly, they aren't paying attention to them. Oh, yes, whenever a reporter or debate moderator utters the phrase "small business," out come the knee-jerk platitudes about how important small business is to the U.S. economy, how many jobs are created by small businesses, how entrepreneurs are our new superheroes, etc. But when pressed for specifics, nothing is said. Simply put, they are too busy grabbing media attention and trying to score points against each other, and small business matters just don't make the top 10 issues trending on Twitter and Facebook. It's much easier to make headlines talking about illegal immigrants (many of whom own small businesses), terrorism or racial attitudes.
At the end of the day, you will have to vote, even if it's just a protest vote. Traditionally, the Republican Party has been the party of small business. But the GOP is not making an effort to reach out to our community.
In the words of the old Chinese curse, we live in interesting times. Regardless of who wins the White House in November, I think it's fairly certain we can expect the following:
--A dramatic expansion of the federal government, especially in the areas of social services and health care (possibly including universal taxpayer-supported health care).
--An equally dramatic increase in the taxes needed to pay for that government expansion. Don't believe for a minute that increases will affect only the millionaires and billionaires, or the top 1 percent.
--A pro-labor, pro-union, anti-employer tilt in federal labor and employment regulation.
--A generally anti-business and pro-regulation bias, which stems from the uncontrolled behavior of big banks that caused the 2008 financial panic but paints all believers in free enterprise (otherwise known as capitalists) with the same brush.
Having said that, does it really make a difference who you vote for? Probably not. But you don't have to stand by waiting for the socialist tsunami to wash you off the beach. As in so many areas of life, nothing happens in politics unless you make your views known, heard and respected.
Have you joined any of the small business lobbies, such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses or the National Small Business Association? If not, shame on you.
Do you know which U.S. senators sit on the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship? If not, shame on you.
Do you know which U.S. representatives sit on the House Small Business Committee? If not, shame on you.
Do you listen to talk radio programs that focus on small business issues, such as Jim Blasingame's "The Small Business Advocate" or BizTalkRadio? If not, shame on you.
Do you plan on voting for a candidate because of his or her stand on an issue that doesn't affect small business (for example, the Middle East) without knowing where he or she stands on the issues that matter most to your business? If so, shame on you.
So, what should you do? Here's a dirty little secret: It really doesn't matter to your business who is elected president. It matters a lot -- a whole lot -- which party controls the Senate and the House of Representatives (but especially the House, for that's where tax bills and spending bills originate).
It isn't likely Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will respond to a letter, phone call or email from you. (You know Clinton won't respond to emails. Sorry, I couldn't resist.) But your congressperson will, as will the person who is running against him or her.
To find out who your congressperson and senator are, go to www.whoismyrepresentative.com and type in your ZIP code. Then, call your local Board of Elections or Registrar of Voters to find out who the opponent is (or search online).
After that, call, write and email both candidates, and demand to know what they are planning to do to help small businesses and entrepreneurs in your area. Don't be afraid to ask tough questions. For example, if you are selling merchandise on eBay or Amazon, you want to know exactly where each candidate stands on the proposed Marketplace Fairness Act that would require you to charge sales tax on all internet sales.
As we said back in the 1960s, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. What Congress does or does not do has an enormous impact on your business and your life. Not voting and not caring about the outcome is not an option.