As I look with bemusement and attempted objectivity at recent proposed solutions to our ailing entrepreneurial and business climate, one fact increasingly leaps out at me: Almost all political and economic suggestions for remediation of our conundrums are based on short-term, strategically parochial and self-serving base assumptions–many deleterious to the long-term health of business and, particularly, of small business. It is so much easier for to apply quick band aids and feel-good nostrums and say we are doing something. To cite that overused but accurate phrase, we are engaged in “kicking the can down the road.”
Take for instance, the tax incentives offered to us small businessmen in the American Jobs Act. This Act offers $240 billion in new short-term tax incentives to hire new workers. However, these temporary incentives apply for the next 16 months only, after which new employees will become part of large permanent new bureaucratic fiats and taxes, like Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. In what way will this incentivize any entrepreneur to saddle herself or himself with any but the most essential new hires? It feels like a trick to bribe our entrepreneurial community to shut up till after next year’s elections, after which point we get hit with a variety of giant tax bills and more stupid regulation.
The Wall Street Journal (Editorial-9/14/11) sums up White House thinking as hoping “new spending and temporary tax cuts will so fire up investment and hiring in the next 16 months that the economy will be growing much faster in 2013 and could thus absorb a leap off the tax cliff.” To me, this is simply a panglossian myopia unattached to long-term business reality.
I worry that both of our political parties can never think past the next election. Obviously, we should keep our basic welfare safety nets at reasonable levels (and that includes entrepreneurs paying more taxes), but you shouldn’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs of employment and economic growth through stultifying, excessive regulation and punitive taxation. Our present governmental thinking does exactly that.
I often wonder if my own Boomer Generation has become incapable of the long-term sacrifice and common sense necessary for fundamental reform because of simple selfishness and generational narcissism. Or perhaps that judgement should apply to all of our current society, whether this be the welfare recipient or the millionaire. Where is the commitment to the greater good?
Perhaps we have become an epicurean society, living for only a short-term happiness and never paying the piper. The modern use of the term “epicurean” is associated with the saying, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” Though this is a false oversimplification of Epicurus (341-270 BC) philosophy, perhaps this is where we are in our societal and political thinking. Not good for any of us or the the future of our polity, much less our entrepreneurial community.