Small Business Focus: Is politics a dirty business? What can we do about it?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 10, 2002


“Politics is dirty business,” “I don’t want anything to do with politics.” “They’re all a bunch of crooks.”

You hear them all the time – those broad-brush statements decrying the state of America’s political system. If there’s one thing every American has in common, it’s a quick and negative comment about the political process.

Is it dirty business? Sometimes. Is there corruption in politics? Yes.

But who has the ultimate responsibility for keeping politics clean and honest? We do. Every American citizen of voting age.

Those who own and operate the nation’s millions of small businesses feel an even greater sense of duty to endure that our political system functions properly, efficiently and honestly. Why? Because there is no greater sector of American society more affected by the actions of government than small business.

If you run a business, you’d better get involved in politics, or politics will run your business. Small-business owners need to get involved, because the outcome of each and every election has a direct impact on the Main Street firms that create the bulk of the nation’s jobs and cough up more than their fair share of taxes.

And there is another reason to get involved in politics: to counter the anti-business influence of big labor, which, at this very moment, is preparing to launch one of the most massive voter turnout campaigns in history. Spending millions of dollars to push their voters to the polls is only part of labor’s effort. They’re also financing campaigns to boost those who support legislation that would weaken America’s free enterprise system.

What can small-business owners do? Plenty. And it all begins right at their door – educating employees, customers, family members, friends and other small-business owners. It’s about making sure we all know the issues and the candidates’ positions on them. It’s about telling employees which candidates support small business and why it is important for those who work in small firms to vote for those candidates – for the sake of their jobs and their economic future.

America has great confidence in the political guidance of its entrepreneurs. According to a Winston Group poll taken last summer, voters prefer candidates supported by small-business owners almost three-to-one to politicians who have the nod from big labor. A Tel Opinion Research survey conducted for NFIB in early July found 84 percent of small-business owners are “extremely” or “very” likely to vote.

Small-business owners should view elections not only as a day to lead American citizens in their search for good government, but also an opportunity to reward the friends of free enterprise and punish its enemies – those who would saddle small business with more regulations, paperwork and taxes.

Sure, politics is sometimes a dirty business. All the more reason small-business owners will be rolling up their sleeves and pitching in to make the difference at the polls. There’ll be plenty of time for hand washing afterward. Right now, we have to help clean up the mess.

JACK FARIS is president of the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s largest small-business advocacy group.