When it Comes to Small Business, Obama Just Doesn't Get It

Just when I thought President Obama couldn’t be any more out of touch with small business, his weekly radio address last weekend made me wish Ronald Reagan was around to say “there you go again” with a chuckle. The president’s misunderstanding of America’s entrepreneurs, from what makes them tick to what would really work for them on health care, is laughably profound.

It’s hard to laugh, however, at something so serious. Small businesses do need help when it comes to health insurance, and they are the most important job-creating sector of our economy. And the president paid lip service to these facts in his recent radio address, but his ideas about how his proposals might help small business and the economy are like public policy on acid -- from mildly distorted to downright hallucinogenic.

President Obama says he hears from would-be entrepreneurs that losing the health insurance they get through their current jobs is a significant disincentive for them when they think about starting a business. And that some kind of guarantee on health care would encourage all of these people to start companies and create jobs! As a self-employed person who grew up in a small business family, this theory had me literally spit out my coffee. Although obtaining my own health insurance was a serious matter, it was about number 99 on my list of pros and cons surrounding my decision to leave my job and start my own enterprise. I called my father, another entrepreneur, for his reaction to the president’s claim. Dad started his land-surveying business 25 years ago when he was laid off from his job (a fairly common story among real small-business owners). He and his partners all took out second mortgages on their homes to start their business. Was it a struggle to start a business and buy health insurance for themselves and their families? Sure. Was it enough to sway their decision? No.

My father and I both had the same one-word reaction to the president’s perception of entrepreneurial motivation: bull.