The Last Presidential Debate: Three Missing Issues

By at 18 October, 2016, 8:23 am


By Karen Kerrigan-

The final presidential debate of the 2016 election is October 19 at 9:00 p.m. ET. The previous two debates were fascinating, but were very (very!) much lacking on questions and discussion regarding issues relating to the U.S. economy and how each candidate plans to reignite growth, quality job creation, investment, and entrepreneurship.

See our profiles on the candidates here:

HILLARY CLINTON                         DONALD TRUMP


SBE Council believes issues impacting entrepreneurship and small businesses need to be front and center in this campaign season. After all, Americans are very concerned about their economic livelihood and future, and entrepreneurs are critical to getting the economy back on a strong growth track.

Economy is the #1 Issue

According to Gallup’s most recent poll released on October 14, “the economy” is cited as the top problem facing the country, followed by “problems with government.” As entrepreneurs and small business owners are all-too-aware, the two issues are keenly interrelated. Government policies play a central role in whether startups and small businesses succeed, wither, or go under.

The sluggish economic recovery and the debilitating uncertainty that just won’t go away are not conducive to risk-taking. The vast growth in government regulation, for example, is especially hard on small businesses and is not helpful for fomenting an environment that encourages new business formation. Weak business creation has translated to pitiful economic growth, less opportunity, and fewer quality jobs for our economy. (See SBE Council’s report: Entrepreneurship in Decline: Millions of Missing Businesses.)

The Missing Questions

No doubt, many important issues have not received the attention they deserve at these debates. Candidates have not been challenged with the right questions to dig deeper into their positions. But mostly, key issues have not been brought up at all by the moderators!

When it comes to the state of our economy, the health of our nation’s small businesses and startup sector are extraordinarily important to the financial security and outlook of all Americans. Will our economy return to a dynamic condition that offers opportunity for the dreamers and the doers, or will it limp along in its current lackluster state where new business ideas die because of poor confidence, the lack of capital, and an aversion to risk-taking?

So, moderator Chris Wallace, please ask Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump these key questions:

How will you boost entrepreneurship and new business creation?

New business creation remains poor, which means fewer jobs being created and less dynamism and innovation for our economy. Candidates need to be asked how they will bring the entrepreneurial spirit and energy back to America. What is their agenda to encourage more entrepreneurship and small business growth? Follow up discussion would focus on their specific policies relating to America’s complex and painful tax system, along with specific policies that will incentivize U.S. entrepreneurship.

How will you meaningful reform the regulatory system to encourage small business growth and new business creation?

Both candidates have talked about regulatory “relief,” but how will they specifically do that? How will they give small businesses a meaningful voice in the regulatory process where their input will be considered and acted upon (rather than ignored as currently)? What do they plan to do to review Obama Administration regulatory actions, and amend those that ignored small business impact and concern? Specifically, how will each of the candidates create more transparency and design a modern regulatory system that effectively and fairly engages the public, weighs cost-benefit to the community, considers the best available science, evaluates outcomes, and is flexible for entrepreneurs and small businesses?

How will you improve capital access and encourage private sector investment?

Many small businesses and entrepreneurs still lack adequate financing to compete and grow. At the same time trillions of dollars in capital sits on the sidelines because of economic and regulatory uncertainty. Dodd-Frank overreach has hurt small, community banks, which has affected their ability to lend to local small businesses. The CFPB is running amok (thankfully a recent court ruling has reined in the agency’s unconstitutional power structure), and the SEC is ignoring sound reforms that would boost U.S. capital formation. Thankfully, there are new and innovative means for entrepreneurs and small businesses to access capital. Online lending and crowdfunding platforms are filling a void, but even on that front the federal government views these emerging innovations as threats to small businesses rather than positive solutions. Entrepreneurs and American businesses need capital to fuel investment, quality job creation and their growth. Question: Specifically, how will your policy agenda boost capital formation, make the U.S. a haven for capital and encourage private sector investment?

(See SBE Council’s report: A Lost Decade for Private Investment, which finds a real gross private domestic investment gap of at least $1.4 trillion – in 2009 dollars – in 2016.)

Questions from Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs

As a lead up to the debates, SBE Council conducted a flash-poll of its members asking them specifics on what they want to hear from the candidates.  An example of some of those responses, include:

• My sales can’t keep up with costs. What will each candidate do to help the economy become strong again?

• I would like to hear specifics on matters relevant to small business (e.g., reduced taxes, reduced regulations, affordable health care). I don’t want to hear lip service, for example, “how important small business is to the U.S. economy.”

• What is your program to eliminate and consolidate regulations that undermine the economy and harm people and small business, and those that hurt incentives to invest in small businesses. What about the consolidation of regulatory agencies?

• How do you intend to make sure that entrepreneurs and small business owners have a REAL voice in your Administration?

Focus on the Issues

It’s time the media focus on issues and where the candidates plan to take the country on economic matters. The U.S. economy is at a critical juncture. Bold policies are needed to drive opportunity, growth and security for all Americans. Strengthening entrepreneurship, and encouraging more people to start businesses is so critical to a vibrant and growing economy. This final debate needs to focus on what really matters.

Karen Kerrigan is president & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.


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