Ants – they are the unwelcome summer guests; the plight of the summer picnic. One tiny mistake, one lemonade left unfinished, one cookie crumb fallen on a checked blanket is the surest way to put a damper on any summer afternoon. They appear slowly, one carefully making its way across the blanket to the fated leftovers, another following close behind. With careful calculation, the others follow suit, working their way across the blanket and onto the once pristine spread. Left unchecked, they slowly take over, as if one is an invitation for another, until there are so many ants that the picnic is effectively ruined.
Small businesses are facing a similar plight. Only the unwelcome guest at the proverbial picnic is the federal government and small businesses are left feeling the effects.
The National Federation of Independent Business, an organization that regularly surveys small businesses across America, reported a decline in small business optimism for the third straight month. Nearly two-thirds of small business owners responding to the survey said it was a bad time to expand their business operations.
Small businesses employ half of our nation’s private work sector, creating almost two-thirds of all new jobs over the last 15 years. The idea that “as small business goes, so goes the economy” is no surprise. Small businesses are the anchors of Main Street USA. They are the backbone of our economy. When small businesses are not optimistic, they are hesitant to invest, grow, and create jobs. And when they do not invest, grow, and create jobs, it impedes our nation’s economic growth.
A lack of small business optimism is obvious on one level. The unemployment rate is hovering around nine percent with little signs of shrinking. Many individuals have postponed starting new businesses. Capital to cover start up expenses is becoming harder to obtain. There has been a 23 percent in the rate of new business creation since 2007 resulting in as many as 1.8 million fewer jobs for Americans. But there is something else about the NFIB report that is even more concerning – and that is the reason why small businesses are not optimistic and why optimism is continuing to decline.
The economic data released by the NFIB makes it clear that the increasing role of government in the lives of small businesses has left them treading in rough waters. While there is nothing new about some degree of government involvement in the lives of small businesses, the role of the federal government has increased significantly in the past several years in the form of taxes, regulations, and bureaucratic red tape.