- - Monday, September 21, 2020

My sympathies go to the family of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But of all the people in this country, besides her family members, the one group that should be lamenting her death the most are the nation’s small business owners. For us, her death could not have come at a worse time.

That’s because the agenda between now and the election has been forever and thoroughly disrupted. Over the next few weeks there will be talk of little else other than who is going to replace the respected left-wing U.S. Supreme Court justice. The president will nominate a woman, he says. The House may once again take up impeachment proceedings to stop him, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warns. The Senate will indeed vote on a successor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promises. Oh boy, here we go. All of this means that in the five weeks remaining between now and the election all of Washington, all of the media and therefore all of the country will be consumed by this monumental, impending battle.

And, of course, the issue is extremely important. “Reproductive rights, voting rights, protections from discrimination, the future of criminal justice, the power of the presidency, the rights of immigrants, tax rules and laws, and healthcare for millions of vulnerable Americans” are just a few of the big issues that are up for the court to consider in the forthcoming years, according to The Guardian’s Tom McCarthy. “Every big issue in American life is on the line.”

It’s important stuff. But, right now, right this moment, there is another issue that gravely affects tens of millions others: the survival and prosperity of America’s small business owners. You remember them, right? 

They’re the ones that employ more than half of the country’s workforce. They’re the ones that make up the infrastructure of this country’s economy. And they’re also the ones that are — in many places — still (still!) totally or partially shut down, begging for funding like another Paycheck Protection Program stimulus, waiting for virus restrictions to be relaxed and hoping and praying for a better 2021 than 2020, if they’re even able to last that long. 



Yelp and various industry associations are warning of “hundreds of thousands” of permanent small business closures because of COVID-19. I don’t necessarily think that’s true, but even if you don’t there’s no question that many small businesses — particularly restaurants, retailers, fitness centers and travel companies — are teetering on economic ruin. Their employees, customers, partners and all their family members are facing serious financial hardship.

So while the right and the left in Washington wrestle over the next RBG, our small businesses will be put on the waiting list for another round of PPP. Many will find themselves in limbo or ignored, instead of getting the necessary relief they so desperately need. Instead of standing up for small businesses, Senators on the left and right will instead stand up for their constituencies that will be affected by the next Supreme Court justice pick.  

And can you blame them? What’s going to get you the most TV exposure in the run-up to the elections: the boring stimulus or the juicy Supreme Court nomination? What better way to go viral than to appeal to your political base and take a stand on what nominee would be right for the cause and best suited to save the country from ruin? And what scandals will — inevitably, given prior confirmation hearings — emerge that will take over the headlines?

The Senate already failed to pass even a slimmed-down version of their stimulus bill. The House’s “Heroes Act” version is a political non-starter. More negotiations are desperately needed to help desperate businesses. Even prior to Justice Ginsburg’s passing, many experts believed that a new round of stimulus is less likely before the elections. Now, with this new and politically salacious issue to take up the headlines, it’s all but certain that small businesses will need to be ride out the rest of this year without any more help from the government. That’s the same government, by the way, that put them in this predicament to begin with. 

I know, I know: it’s sad that RBG passed away. She was a great woman. But please … she was 87 and very sick. Her death should not have come as much surprise. And neither should the forthcoming death of many small businesses that will likely occur because of her passing.

• Gene Marks is a CPA and owner of The Marks Group, a technology and financial management consulting firm that specializes in small- and medium-sized companies.

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