It seems like Washington can't agree on anything these days, except maybe one thing:
It seems everyone in Washington loves small business, or pretends they do.
If you watch the news or listen to the ads, you'll hear candidates on both sides of the aisle vow to help small businesses grow and create jobs.
Of course, some of that is just election-year baloney, but it raises a good question: Why do politicians want voters to know they're fighting for small business?
Politicians love small business because small business matters. It's important, it's trusted, and it's going to make a big difference in this year's elections. It isn't stretching things to say that small business is the engine that drives our economy. The federal government defines a small business as one with fewer than 500 employees. By that measure, small business accounts for 99.7 percent of all U.S. employers, and it employs 49.6 percent of the private-sector workforce.
When ordinary people think of small business, 500 employees may seem big, but even if you look at just the smallest employers, those with fewer than 20 workers, it's easy to see that small business is a powerful force.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, these businesses account for 89.3 percent of all employer firms.
The bottom line is that small business has a big voice in what happens with the economy and voters know it. Gallup did a survey a few months ago asking who people trust when it comes to coming up with ideas for creating jobs. The No. 1 answer: small business, before governors, academics, members of Congress or the president.
The other reason politicians like small business is because small business votes.
A survey by the National Federation of Independent Business before the last presidential election found that small-business owners account for about 11 percent of registered voters — about the same as union members. When you include those who work for small businesses, the small-business voting bloc swells to nearly one-third of the electorate.
Small-business voters support the candidates who support small business, the candidates who understand risk and free enterprise and will run government with the prudence of a small-business owner. Small business supports the candidates who believe in sensible regulations and less bureaucracy and lower taxes. Small business supports the candidates who will spend taxpayers' money wisely. Small-business owners have to stick to a budget, and they believe government should, too.
Right now, small business is hurting. According to the latest NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, the single most important problem facing small business right now is weak sales, followed by high taxes and government rules and regulations. Uncertainty over the outcome of this year's elections doesn't help.
If we're going to fix this economy, we need to elect the candidates who will do big things for small business by passing meaningful tax reform and enacting sensible regulations, candidates who won't punish success or put up roadblocks to growth.
Because big things happen only when you support small business.
Dan Danner is president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents 350,000 small-business owners in Washington, D.C. and every state capital.