It’s been exactly three and a half years since Barack Obama was inaugurated, and here are two things that folks on the left have been saying about the economy every day since then: It’s Bush’s fault, and the problem is a lack of aggregate demand.
Here’s what small businesses have to say about the situation:
Keeping in mind that these are what small firms are “most concerned” about, meaning many likely have concerns to varying degrees about all three, a few things jump out at me:
1. In 2005, these three concerns accounted for a little more than one-third of small firms’ biggest worries. Today, they combine for about 60 percent. That suggests to me that these firms have less time and energy to devote to specific concerns about growing their business.
2. After shooting to the top in the second half of 2008, concerns about sales plateaued for about two years. Those concerns have been falling pretty steadily for the past year and a half.
3. Concerns about regulation, which more or less mirrored those about sales from 2005 to the start of 2008, began a steady ascent in 2009 and have almost doubled since then.
4. Concerns about taxes have remained fairly steady over these years.
5. At the beginning of 2009, the sum of concerns about regulation and those about sales was in the neighborhood of 40 percent — pretty much the same as today. But the division between them is starkly different: Whereas there were three small firms concerned about sales for every one worried about regulation then, now the two are dead even. In other words, worries about sales have been gradually replaced by worries about regulation.
6. If current trend lines continue, both taxes and regulation will soon rank higher among small firms’ concerns than sales.
Even if one wants to credit Obama’s “stimulus” package with the decrease in worries about sales — totally ignoring the effects of the Federal Reserve’s ultra-loose monetary policy — this graph clearly shows why improved demand hasn’t shifted the economy out of neutral: Increased regulation has stifled the recovery we might have had.
Small firms are generally credited with the bulk of job creation in this country. So the question this information puts to voters is: Which candidate do you expect to do more about the most pressing problems faced by small firms — Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?
– By Kyle Wingfield