- - Thursday, December 15, 2016


Happy news is breaking out all over, apparently in expectation of a business-friendly president next year. The November reading of the small-business optimism index of the National Federation of Independent Business, released this week, jumped to 98.4 percent from 94.9 percent, the greatest surge since 2009.

It’s hardly a coincidence that the previous high mark of the Index of Small-Business Optimism was recorded eight years ago. That reading in 2009 was recorded the year that Barack Obama assumed office, bringing with him great promise that became eight years of red tape, Obamacare mandates and oppressive rules and regulations that would stifle any economy.

“This month, we bifurcated the data to measure the results before and after the election,” NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg told Bloomberg News. “The November index was basically unchanged from October’s reading up to the point of the election, and then rose dramatically after the results of the election were known.”

He credits the victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, who would have continued Mr. Obama’s anti-business agenda. Tom Scott, the NFIB’s California director, agrees with unabashed enthusiasm: “What a difference a day makes.” That red-letter day was Nov. 8.

The uptick in the small-business optimism index reflects the views from the small-business trenches that Jan. 20 will bring the end, not necessarily of an era but at least the end of an eight-year error. The reflexive anti-business mentality of Mr. Obama and his administrative-state minions will be replaced by Mr. Trump, whose administration is likely to be the most business friendly since the Reagan years.

This surge in small-business optimism is expected to trickle down to the owners of convenience stores, restaurants, clothing and accessories shops. An exception to this expectation, alas, is in Washington, where business owners are considerably less optimistic than their counterparts elsewhere. The District of Columbia Council continues to throttle the District economy, and just last week gave preliminary approval of an enormous new entitlement, to cost $238 million a year, mandating paid leave of up to 11 weeks for a birth or adoption, and eight weeks to enable a resident to care for an ill family member.

The Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act would create a new bureaucracy to administer the program, whose budget would be larger than that of the city’s Department of Public Works and would be paid for with a 0.62 percent increase in the city payroll tax on D.C. employers.

Council members hastily approved it despite a 10-page “fiscal impact statement” from Jeffrey S. DeWitt, the city’s chief financial officer, who warned that “[f]unds are not sufficient in the fiscal year 2017 through fiscal year 2020 budget and financial plan to implement the bill.”

The Washington Post, which rarely meets a half-baked scheme it doesn’t like, nevertheless called the measure “a half-baked scheme” and urged the city’s aldermen to send it “back to the drawing board.”

That increase in the payroll tax to pay for paid leave would be imposed in addition to the council’s decision in June to raise the minimum wage in the city to $15 an hour by the year 2020.

This contempt for reality is reflected in the membership of the D.C. Council, which is made up of lawyers, former federal government employees and “community activists,” few of whom have worked in the private sector, where most of the money is actually earned, and none of whom have ever struggled with meeting a payroll.

Liberals — or “progressives,” in this year’s euphemism — love jobs, but despise employers. Employers can avoid this contempt, as many are doing, by moving across the Potomac to the more business-friendly climate in Virginia. That helps no one in the District.

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