Meg Whitman Sells McCain's Plan for Small Business

As national co-chair of John McCain’s campaign, Meg Whitman has championed the Republican candidates’ ideas for small business owners. During her convention speech Sept. 3, she continued to promote a McCain/Palin administration as the best bet for small American entrepreneurs.

“They will push Congress to reduce business taxes so that entrepreneurs and especially small businesses have the money they need to create jobs,” said Whitman. “Higher taxes encourage wasteful spending… and destroys your prosperity.”

Whitman, herself, has a mixed record with small business owners. As CEO of eBay for 10 years, Whitman helped millions of would-be entrepreneurs become full-time online retailers. Under her tenure, eBay expanded from a small U.S. Web site on which sellers auctioned off several million worth of collectibles each year to a global e-commerce powerhouse on which more than $14 billion in goods are sold each quarter.

At eBay Live, the company’s annual event for its seller and shopper community, many sellers often speak fondly of how the company has helped them launch successful home-based businesses and provides much needed supplemental income.

But, in the last five years of Whitman’s eBay career, she angered many small business owners who make their living selling merchandise on eBay. Many argued that Whitman bolstered eBay’s bottom line at the expense of their businesses, raising eBay’s commission and forcing them to close shop. “EBay has over the last year done everything they could to put me and everyone else out of business except for themselves,” says Scott Grunin, an eBay seller who described himself in an email with a BusinessWeek reporter as a stay at home dad and full time eBay seller with two little kids. “Rich get richer, poor get poorer.”

Democratic nominee Barack Obama is arguing that McCain’s economic policies will do just that: aid the rich at the expense of the poor. During his speech last week at the Democratic National Convention, Obama maintained that tax cuts for businesses and wealthy individuals have constituted a policy of “your own your own” that has hurt the middle class and small business owners.

Whitman and other Republican supporters counter that Obama’s plans will handicap businesses with higher taxes to support bigger government programs. “Republicans understand that government does not create wealth or prosperity, individuals do,” said Whitman Wednesday night. “America is all about the inspired individual.”

Whether Whitman’s speech inspires individuals to vote for John McCain may depend on how much they trust her view that he is, in fact, the best candidate for American business owners.

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