Business survey on election: Campaign full of sound and fury signifies nothing

It’s never too early, it seems, for electioneering. That’s especially true for those trying so hard to move into an oval office.

The election remains almost a year away, yet Democratic presidential candidates have been debating for almost that long. And those dreaded ads have not only shown up on our television screens, but also with alarming regularity.

Yet, all the sound and fury that’s gone into campaigning so far has signified little — at least according to the latest results of a quarterly survey of small business owners.

Fully 69 percent of those responding to the Wells Fargo and Gallup Small Business Index survey believe presidential candidates aren’t discussing the issues most important to them as small business owners. Here’s an important juxtaposition: Fully 51 percent of small business owners also believe the outcome of the presidential election will have a major effect on their operations.

Small business owners also were asked to name the most important issues on which they’d like presidential candidates to focus. Owners cited a variety of issues, but three most often: taxes and tax relief, health care and health insurance and the overall economy. Owners also cited trade tariffs and called for less rhetoric about socialism.

Asked to rate the importance of a number of issues the winner of the 2020 presidential election should address when he or she takes office, small business owners most often mentioned economic policies that affect their operations, tax rates and regulations, consumer confidence in the economy and health care.

There’s no small measure of irony there’s a perceived disconnect between the role of small businesses in the United States economy and what presidential candidates spend most of their time talking about.

According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than 99 percent of the businesses in the country are small businesses — by SBA definition, those with fewer than 500 employees. Small businesses employ nearly half the private sector work force and over the past two decades created 65 percent of net new jobs. Small businesses also account for a third of the value of U.S. exports.

By those calculations and others, small businesses collectively constitute big business. So why don’t presidential candidates talk more about small business issues? Is it because of ignorance, neglect or some sort of campaign strategy? None of those reasons is acceptable. For that matter, why do some candidates seem equally oblivious about the fundamentals of economics?

Small businesses constitute the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs in providing so many products and services as well as jobs. Based on history, it’s easy to make the argument small businesses also rank among the greatest innovators. Those innovations often turn small businesses into big businesses.

It makes no sense for government to slaughter the goose with undue taxes or regulations. Government — and in turn, the country — would be far better served in protecting and nurturing that goose. Fostering that kind of culture starts at the top — with the president.

That means it’s never too early for candidates to start talking about small business issues.