BY SAMIA BAHSOUN
As a small business owner on the Jersey Shore, I am very concerned about the potential for major budget cuts that may be an outcome of the fiscal showdown in Congress. Why? It’s quite simple: The obsession in Congress with cutting budgets is bad for small businesses.
I believe we need to protect programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and find new revenue sources to strengthen them. These programs protect people — making sure workers and their families have a basic income and making sure they don’t have to spend every last dime on health care costs.
When people have more money in their pockets, they shop locally, eat out, get their nails done, buy kids clothes or shoes, buy extra presents for the holiday season, etc. When small businesses thrive, the community as a whole thrives and unemployment goes down. We all win.
Big business interests and corporate CEOs are lobbying to include major cuts in the budget deal instead of asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute a little bit more. They claim to speak for all businesses, but they don’t speak for me. If you listen to real small business owners, you’ll hear a very different take on this whole debate.
Here in New Jersey, with Hurricane Sandy we’ve seen how vitally important federal programs can be. Sometimes, we don’t realize how important these programs are until we need them — that’s what happened for many of us this year. Victims of Sandy got direct assistance from FEMA mere days after the hurricane and were immediately able to hire small business owners — plumbers, electricians and other small business owners — to do the repair work.
I do not know any small business owners here who would cut funding for FEMA. If anything, many of us believe that such government assistance should be expanded in the form of grants to small businesses devastated by Sandy.
It may be less obvious, but Social Security and Medicare affect small businesses directly, too. Most small business owners, like me, don’t get company pensions or retiree health benefits, so these programs are a critical piece of a basic retirement.
These programs are also a foundation of our middle class and of a healthy customer base for small businesses. Every dollar taken out of the pockets of our seniors is a dollar they can’t spend in their local economies and local small businesses.
Congress needs to put meaningful revenue options on the table so we can strengthen these programs, not cut them. We can start by ending the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent of income earners — that’s households earning more than $250,000 a year in taxable income. This would recoup almost a trillion dollars in revenue over 10 years.
This is the best path forward for small businesses: While the richest 2 percent will hardly notice the small increase in their taxes, severe cuts to programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare would have a damaging effect on our local economies and the customer base that supports healthy small businesses.
What small businesses need most is simple. We need customers — not more tax cuts for the rich. As a country, we’ve tried listening to Wall Street. That strategy hasn’t worked for most Americans and it hasn’t worked for small businesses.
While the banks got bailouts and Wall Street rebounded to post new record profits, small businesses took it on the chin. It’s time for a change. It is time for those who created the deficit and profited from it to pay their fair share to reduce it.
This time around, we must listen to Main Street.
Samia Bahsoun is the owner of S2 Associates International, which is a high-tech communications firm in Holmdel. and member of the Main Street Alliance