Dec 02, 2015 - 9:00am

The Place to Start: Be the 'Small Business President'


Former White House Chief of Staff, Counselor to the President, and Special Envoy for the Americas under President Bill Clinton

To: The 45th President of the United States

From: Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty

Dear 45,

Congratulations on your successful campaign, navigating the longest and most expensive presidential race in history. It might be difficult to believe, but the hard part is still to come! Elections are about highlighting differences. Governing is about forging agreements, which seems like mission impossible in today’s dysfunctional Washington.

And yet when it comes to economic policy, there’s one area that brings together Americans of all backgrounds and political beliefs: support for small business. As you lean into the challenge of getting Washington to work again, and creating good jobs across the economy, fortifying small businesses is an ideal place to focus.

Regardless of party, you can start by considering yourself “the small business President.” Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and our communities. They create most new jobs and employ about half the private workforce. They are launching pads for innovation and opportunity. As part of a fourth generation family company that started with a car dealership in Hope, Ark., I've seen first-hand how small businesses have made Main Street a principal avenue to the American Dream.

Today, some major potholes obstruct this road to success. Small firms are still hurting from the recession and are producing fewer new jobs than before 2007. For the first time, business deaths outpace births. Despite the image of startups like Uber and Airbnb, many small, new companies starve for lack of financing.

There's a constructive role for government to help small firms compete and produce good jobs. And there are strong ideas from both sides of the aisle.

Take, for example, three initiatives to invigorate small businesses:

First, reform the tax code. Small companies can't compete with big corporations that find creative ways to lower taxes. They spend a larger share of resources to comply with the byzantine tax code.

Second, cut red tape. There are bipartisan efforts to curb onerous regulations weighing on small firms, including some resulting from the Affordable Care Act.

I've seen first-hand how small businesses have made Main Street a principal avenue to the American Dream.

Third, expand vocational and apprentice programs that prepare workers for the 21st century’s high paying fields. Training costs for small businesses should be offset by tax breaks and other incentives.

Putting the success of small businesses front and center will enable you to lessen discord around issues like income inequality, wages, growth and trade. When small businesses thrive, so does democracy. Our communities and civic life are stronger.

Small business owners are clear about what they want from Washington. In a recent survey they ranked their top priorities: simplify and cut taxes, reduce the national deficit, and "end the partisan gridlock and work together."

I know you’re eager to get to work. American business is ready to work with you.

Sincerely,

Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty, III
Former White House chief of staff
Chairman and founder of McLarty Associates, and chairman of the McLarty Companies

 
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About the Author

About the Author

Former White House Chief of Staff, Counselor to the President, and Special Envoy for the Americas under President Bill Clinton

McLarty is chairman and founder of McLarty Associates and chairman of the McLarty Companies, a fourth-generation family transportation business based in Little Rock, Ark. He held various roles advising three U.S. presidents: Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.