Are You Listening, Mr. Bush?

On the eve of the new Administration, entrepreneurs from across the country weigh in on everything from regulatory burdens to tax cuts, health insurance, and immigration

Christina Bauer
Christina Bauer

President and CEO, Mindful Technologies, customer-service software, Newton, Mass.

Wish List.

   As a high-tech entrepreneur, I don't have the kind of policy wish list that a multibillion dollar organization would keep at its fingertips. I believe, furthermore, that my situation is far from unique. What might help small businesses like mine would be to pinpoint -- and promote -- one federal organization that acts as a "sherpa guide" for all things entrepreneurial. Both the federal and state government have many programs that help startups like mine -- groups that provide everything from tax advice to cash investments. Making sure every entrepreneur has that single point of contact in order to navigate all aspects of government would be a massive help.

When it comes to policy matters, small businesses have tended to get lost in the shuffle because we don't necessarily have the time or resources to lobby for our individual needs. However, each of our efforts combines to create a massive engine that drives the U.S. economy.

The Economy.

   Even with the recent downturn, the U.S. economy is stronger than it ever was, even at the height of the go-go '80s. Today, we are moving back to an economy where it takes a lot of hard work and tough decisions, such as laying off personnel, in order to build good companies or maintain strong investment portfolios. This can only create a healthier economy in the long run.

The Bush Team.

   Overall, I believe that Bush has chosen a strong team. What always fascinates me is how that team is managed. President Reagan, for example, had people create one-page summaries of issues, with the idea that if you can't condense an idea to a single page then you don't understand it. When the Cuban Missile Crisis hit, President Kennedy's Administration created a "swat team" of experts to brainstorm different scenarios. I employ both of these tactics in my business today, and look forward to finding out what Bush will enact tomorrow.

Ron Deabler
Ron Deabler

Owner of American Technical Services Inc., Brookfield, Wis., and U.S. Tech Force, Fond du Lac, Wis., skilled-trades employment services

Tax policy.

   Bush should continue to press his agenda. Certainly, as part of that, a tax cut will stimulate the economy. Bush should focus on sound government spending policy, reining in new social programs that never die, and on a solid trade policy that has a positive effect on U.S. companies in foreign markets.

When the shackles of high taxation on business are shed and consumers are spending, businesses will be there to answer the bell. It's all a risk/reward calculation: Why should I take on more risk and put more people to work when the government does nothing but take it away through taxation and onerous government regulation? I would be better off in the long run to put my money in a growth mutual fund and watch it grow at 12% a year over 20 years. Give me a reason to take more risk (a tax cut, less regulation), and I will be right in there creating more jobs.

The Bush team.

   I am very impressed with all his appointments so far. He appears to have chosen an A Team instead of just putting his friends and political allies in place. We will see good things from this Cabinet and this Administration.

Janet Poppen
Janet K. Poppen

President, Poppen & Associates, CPA firm, St. Louis

Social Security.

   The current "pay as you go" Social Security system is the largest threat to our economy. The current rate of return on Social Security contributions is incredibly low, and the upcoming demands on the system place an unfair burden on our children and grandchildren. I would urge the new Administration to allow workers to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in private accounts, and allow those contributions to vest to the participant. Vesting would particularly benefit low-income workers who currently have no other way to accumulate wealth.

Health Insurance.

   Small businesses are currently at a real disadvantage when purchasing health insurance. What we really need is the ability to form association health plans, so small businesses can join together through industry associations to receive the same benefits and prices as unions and large corporations. The lack of health-insurance coverage is a national disgrace. Congress can do something about this that would really make a difference.

The Economy.

   The slide in the stock market seems to be bringing about a more realistic approach to businesses, a focus on earnings and good business principles on the part of investors and CEOs. A strong economy is the result of good fiscal policies. Like most women business owners, I am a fiscal conservative, but more liberal on social issues. I know that with good fiscal policies, businesses will prosper. And in a good economy, social objectives can also be achieved.

Joanne Culver
Joanne Culver

President, PROVISTA Software International Inc., e-business consulting, Fremont, Calif.

Wish List.

   We'd like to see the tax cut pass, to have minimal (no) government intervention in the Internet economy, to see a lot of the regulation and red tape eliminated, to see an increase in quotas for immigrants. Hopefully, the Bush Administration will be sensitive to the issues facing small businesses and realistic about the ability of a small business to deal with the burden of government bureaucracy.

Economic Policy.

   As a small-business owner, my chief concern is the strength of the economy. I would like to see further monetary easing to stimulate capital investment. A tax cut to stimulate consumer spending might put $25 in each of our pockets -- a very small blip on the radar screen -- but stimulating capital investment creates jobs.

The Bush Team.

   For politicians, they are not too bad. We do like the diversity -- gender, ethnic, and political.

Dov Goldman
Dov Goldman

CEO, Cognet Corp., software development and management, Valhalla, N.Y.

Tax Cuts.

   I'm pretty conservative fiscally. I'd prefer to see us pay down the deficit for two reasons. First, lower government borrowing will free up funds for the capital markets, fueling growth. Second, I'd prefer not to saddle my children with a big tax burden. I don't want them to pay for our generation's excesses.

The Economy.

   I've no doubt that we are experiencing slower economic growth. However, I am also seeing signs that growth will continue, albeit at a slower pace. The fact that unemployment is rising, while painful for those who've lost their jobs, will take some of the pressure off the inflation in business expenses and make room for Fed rate cuts. This will give markets a bit of confidence, and fuel some investment. While I'm very liberal socially, I'm pretty conservative fiscally. I think government's record in guiding the economy is pretty bad, so a deadlocked Congress and a President with limited legislative power sounds awful -- but might not be. A government that has to work very hard to advance its legislative agenda is a good thing because only the best programs (ones that have strong bipartisan support) will actually become law. The fewer changes, the better. It keeps the playing field level and doesn't create impediments to business.

Frances Nevarez
Frances T. Nevarez

President, PowerUP! Internet technology training, San Jose, Calif.

Wish List.

   Small businesses would like electricity deregulation, association health plans, equal access to capital, patent reform, income tax reform, repeal of the death tax. We need an SBA administrator who is an advocate for small, women-owned, minority-owned businesses. At this point, I have not seen any indication that this new Administration or Congress will be more favorable to small-business concerns than the Clinton Administration was.

The Bush Team.

   I have concern regarding attorney-general nominee John Ashcroft because he is anti-small business, anti-minorities, and anti-women, and the attorney general dictates what goes to the Supreme Court.

Terry Neese
Terry Neese

Co-founder, GrassRoots Impact Inc., political consulting and conference planning, Oklahoma City, Okla.

Wish List.

   Small-business owners want 100% deductibility for health-insurance premiums. We also want to see association health plans become law, where a bona fide association could insure all members and employees as a group, for probably a 20% reduction in premiums. We also want to see the so-called death tax eliminated. My chief concerns as a small-business owner are taxes, health care, and finding qualified employees.

Economic Policy.

   We need an across-the-board tax-rate reduction, and interest rates must remain low. I am cautiously optimistic about the economy in 2001.

Theresa Forsman in New York

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