Shutdown Politics

February 24, 2021

Last night my wife played me a clip of a local business owner of Fox News being interviewed about his reaction to the most recent restaurant shutdown here in Pennsylvania. The owner, someone I know and like a great deal, has decided to remain open and seat his restaurant at half capacity, despite Governor Wolf’s directives. He expressed his frustration with how all of this has been handled, especially the fact that big box stores all remain open and are making a killing.

I agree with this individual on a lot of things, and I can’t argue that pandemic policy has been inconsistent and confusing. So many things could have been handled better, but I also understand that everyone is learning as they go and I trust that people are generally good and are doing the best they can with the information the have at the time. I find it hard to believe our governor has suddenly decided that the best way to improve the commonwealth is in destroying small business.

I also find it maddening that big box stores are reaping the rewards of a pandemic. Small businesses are getting crushed and the big ones are having a field day. Yet, my local hardware store is open and the god awful Applebees nearby is still closed. So it isn’t a matter of the government targeting small business, what is actually happening is that commonwealth is making decisions about what kinds of businesses are safest for people to patronize right now and restaurants just aren’t it. This is sad and frustrating and unfair, but is it really any sort of anti-small business agenda?

It was disappointing to see a local business owner carry water for a media company that has repeatedly championed legislation that damages local business. As a consultant, it isn’t wise to take a stand on polarizing issues, but as someone who believes with full conviction that 40 years of trickle-down conservative economic policy has decimated small towns and small businesses, I have an obligation to be truthful. Fixing the problem has to be more important than getting the work.

I know my man is pissed, he has every right to be. People have a right to get mad when you mess with their money, with their stability, and with their life’s work- but let’s be real clear about something, the governors behind the shutdowns are no enemy to small business. You want to find the real enemy of small business? Look to the anti-regulation crowd.

Get pissed if you want, murder me in the comments section, but first answer this, do you think the percentage of small businesses are increasing over time? Are small towns healthier in 2021 than in 1921? Do you think small business get a fair shake today? If you answered honestly, then let’s have a chat. Let’s put down our clubs and talk about this like grown-ups, because this is something we need to work out.

“The Kauffman Foundation, citing its own research and drawing on U.S. Census data, concluded that the number of companies less than a year old had declined as a share of all businesses by nearly 44 percent between 1978 and 2012.”

As you can see from the Kauffman Foundation research, small businesses are declining, and the period of decline syncs up pretty nicely with the adoption of Trickle-Down economics and the start of the Reagan Administration. This is the period when legislators decided, if we put all the money at the top of the economy (the 1%) it will “trickle down” to the middle and lower classes (99%). So just give rich people more money and then they will pass it along to all the rest. Every measure of economic well-being has proven this policy demonstrably false.

I don’t want to fight with any of you about what side we are on. I don’t really care all that much. Enjoy whatever social stance you like, love on whatever candidate best suits you, go off my friend. You do you. What I am concerned with is economic policy and the dominant economic policy of the last 40 years is bad for small business. It is simple to see the proof as well. Go downtown. Any town. Most of them are empty, then drive out around the edge of town, full of big big stores, sucking up all the cash. How do you think that happened? That is how economic policy works.

Government makes decisions on how they want the economy to grow and they invest in policy and programs that do just that. And look at the results. These policies have fostered exactly what they intended to foster.

When people talk about being anti-regulation, what they are saying, is that they don’t want businesses to have to follow rules. Criminals are often anti-law. Regulations are just businesses laws, established to try and protect consumers, small business, the environment and provide a level playing field. But as we have established, trickle-down economic policy aims to put the money at the top. So removing regulations is critical to that end. All of the pesky economic policy protecting consumers and the environment, and ESPECIALLY small business have been removed over the decades.

So coming around to the point, as regulations have been removed, small business have suffered, to a devastating degree. No longer do we break up monopolies. No longer do we stop anti-competitive business practices. No longer does the playing field resemble anything remotely level. The deck is stacked against small business by the anti-regulation party because of greed, all under the guise of trickle-down economic policy. So put your political biases aside and consider the truth of the matter. Big businesses want to get bigger. The rich want to get richer. Fine, that is how capitalism works, but we rely, or once did, on government keeping greed in check, so the small guy would have a chance. We need small banks, we need local hardware stores, for all that is holy, we need more dining options than TGI Fridays. Yet, if Fox News and conservative economic policy prevails in removing every business regulations, jalapeño poppers and the shrimp trio might be your only dinner choices.

I am not trying to pick a political fight here, but I know in this day and age it’s inevitable. I am trying to do something more important, which is to shed light on the fact that one type of economic policy is really terrible for small business, and it has been the dominant policy in our country for 40 years and it has been a disaster. So let’s focus on that issue and not the rest of politics for a bit. We know small businesses are hurting, and we know big businesses are thriving. Which mirrors our shift to this winner take all economic policy, which is dependent on the removal of regulations. And here we finally get to it….

Who enacts and enforces legislation? You betcha. Government. It is our government we depend on to protect us from greed run amok.

So the ultra wealthy, big business, their media network, and their politicians have a vested interest in convincing us that government is the problem. The financial interests of the wealthiest benefit when they are able to remove the regulations that protect consumers and small business. Because if everyone hates government they can hollow it out, and therefore make it easier to remove/ignore regulations.

So why would Fox News bring on a local restauranteur, one that isn’t conservative by a looooong shot, to rail against government? Because the more people that are anti-government, the less regulations big business have to adhere to. Small businesses are making the case for less regulation, the very regulation that protects them from getting eaten up by the big guys.

So I get it, this period is awful for small business, but that doesn’t mean government is the problem. We need government, and the less we have of it, the worse our lives get, because we lose the protections we need. I have seen the outrageously depressing results of small towns dismantling local government and limiting their ability to legislate, regulate and lead. Dollar General is just licking it’s chops in the wings. Nothing good has come from this anti-government policy, unless you happen to hang out in the 1% and if you do, kudos to you, you are significantly richer today than ever.

For the rest of us, government is actually employed to protect us and you are a damn fool if you think that corporations will do that for you. The pandemic sucks but abandoning government and the policies we so desperately need to give small business a chance is exactly what the 1% want. Don’t get suckered, get even.

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