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GRAVES: Business will step up when Obama backs off

Small companies need to feel safe from federal mandates

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2011

President Obama at a town-hall meeting last week told businesses they needed to "step up" and hire workers. Yet how can small businesses hire when the administration's mandates, tax hikes and regulations continue to strangle growth and kill jobs?

As we recognize this week as the 48th annual National Small Business Week, it is only fitting that we examine where our nation's best job creators stand, the hurdles they face and how we can better foster an environment that will allow them to thrive. Here's a glimpse of what small businesses are up against:

c Obamacare: This unconstitutional monstrosity will impose a half-trillion dollars in new taxes, threaten a 60 percent increase in premiums and force about 80 percent of small businesses to give up their current coverage. One provision will impose a $2,000 tax per employee on businesses with more than 50 employees that fail to offer health insurance. Reports have shown that these types of employer mandates alone could lead to the elimination of 1.6 million jobs, with 66 percent of those coming from small businesses. The uncertainty and complexity of Obamacare are disincentives to employers who would otherwise use their resources to create jobs and spur economic growth.

c Higher energy costs: As gas prices near $5 a gallon in some areas of the country, the Obama administration continues to block production of American-made energy. These rising prices are leaving many small firms struggling to make ends meet. A recent Internet-based product wholesaler survey reported that 64 percent of small businesses have incurred revenue decreases as a result of rising fuel costs.

c Regulatory impediments: Government red tape costs small businesses an estimated $10,585 per employee - 36 percent higher than the cost of regulatory compliance for large businesses. The total cost of federal regulations has increased to $1.75 trillion - $445 billion more than five years ago, partly because of new, costly laws such as Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank financial services legislation.

c Tax complexity:The United States tax code is a complex document estimated to cost taxpayers and small businesses $163 billion and 6 billion hours a year to comply with its tax-filing requirements. A recent National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) study found that four of the top 10 small-business problems were tax-related.

c Tax hikes: Congress is debating a proposed increase to the debt limit and a budget plan for the next fiscal year. My colleagues and I have made clear that any increase in the debt limit must be coupled with spending cuts and any plan with a tax hike is a non-starter. However, the mere threat of raising taxes creates uncertainty among our job creators and will continue to slow job growth.

c Stalled free-trade agreements: Ninety-seven percent of identified U.S. exporters are small businesses, yet that represents a small fraction of those who could compete globally if trade barriers and high tariffs were reduced. This is why the Obama administration must expedite sending to Congress the pending free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that the three trade agreements combined would increase exports by $13 billion. Using the president's own measure, such an increase in U.S. exports could create 250,000 American jobs.

For small businesses to remain a vital component of our economy, we must dismantle Obamacare and institute an "all of the above" energy plan. We must also ensure that federal agencies no longer ignore the Regulatory Flexibility Act, a federal law that requires federal agencies to consider the least burdensome policy for small businesses. Since most small-business owners pay their business taxes on their individual returns, revising the tax code for both individual and corporate returns would allow businesses to keep more resources instead of spending them on tax compliance. Lastly, we must pass the pending free-trade agreements before other countries establish their own agreements and push American companies out of the competition.

Great economies are built from the ground up, not from the government down. Let's start by prying back the overreaching fingers of Washington so that small businesses will be able to "step up."

Rep. Sam Graves, Missouri Republican, is chairman of the House Committee on Small Business.

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