One of President-Elect Trump’s early mistakes could be his cart-before-the-horse quest to follow in Ronald Reagan’s footsteps and enrich the wealthy and their big industries, rather than the middle class. We’ve seen this all before — and if the gently falling standard of living in the U.S. is any indication, it’s not going to work any better this time around than it did in the days of Reagan.
America needs to renew its focus on small businesses. The “why” is simple. American small businesses are the backbone of our economy. To fail to recognize this could spell disaster if we don’t get our priorities straight.
Trump’s Campaign Promises
Throughout the torturously long 2016 campaign, Trump promised again and again to “bring back” factories and jobs to American shores. He was right to lay partial blame at the feet of regressive trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA, but what he failed to mention is that these trade deals were voted for by more Republicans than Democrats.
We’re well past the blame game, though — both the Democratic and Republican Parties have reduced themselves to glorified corporations themselves, mindlessly raising vast amounts of money while growing further and further out of touch with working Americans.
The time has come to restore our focus on independent business owners. Why? Consider this — small businesses do far more for the American economy than multinational corporations can aspire to. Just look at these facts from the U.S. Small Business Administration:
- Since 1990, big industry has wiped out four million jobs, while independent small businesses have created eight million new jobs.
- Small businesses account for roughly 54% of all retail sales in the United States.
- Locally owned businesses employ 55% of America’s workforce and account for 66% of all the new jobs created since the ‘70s.
While small businesses might not have the resources and political clout of your Boeings or your Verizons, there’s little question they play an outsized role in this country’s development.
Small Business Development Is the Future
Strip away Trump’s populism and campaign rhetoric and what do you have? Another wealthy businessman who wants to leverage the government to enrich himself and his cronies. Take a look at his transition team and cabinet, and you’ll discover few of them have a proven record of worrying about the little guy. These are not the champions our middle class deserves.
Trump’s status as a so-called “political outsider” is almost certainly the biggest reason he managed to win this election, and yet he’s committed himself totally to traditional Republican economic fallacies. Neither Trump nor the GOP are in favor of small government, exactly. They’re in favor of replacing government entirely with corporate influence and corporate priorities. That’s the biggest form of government there is.
So What Do We Do About It?
To begin with, it means holding Trump’s feet to the fire when it comes to lifting small businesses and small business owners. He doesn’t have a great track record with dealing with them himself — he has regularly embarrassed himself by refusing to pay small business owners what he owes them for their products and services.
Moreover, most of Trump’s personal wealth has seeped into his coffers from many of the foreign nations he spends his time denigrating, including both China and Mexico. It’s clear that the president-elect has no real motivation to reign in corporate influence, since he’s spent a lifetime profiting from it.
Perhaps because of this long-running pattern, small business as a whole has merely been an afterthought in Trump’s campaign speeches. His focus so far seems to be rewarding every major corporation that’s ever trashed the U.S. economy and then come back begging for more.
The New Green Frontier
What Trump refuses to acknowledge is that there’s a new economic frontier upon is, and it has everything to do with small business development and green technologies. Think back ten years ago, and it would have been unthinkable that, by 2016, we’d have reached a point where solar panels were cheap enough for mom-and-pop operations to sell and install them independently, or where locally owned craft microbreweries would grow 19% between 2013 and 2014.
That right there? That’s the power of market forces teaming up with environmentally responsible business priorities.
This country is full of companies large and small that have civic mindedness and sustainability in mind, and don’t need to sacrifice success to keep that focus. Whereas Trump and the GOP have their heads stuck firmly in the past — as evinced by their commitment to somehow “bring back” dead technologies like coal — true business leaders are investing their time and attention to movements like “B Corps.”
Doing Responsible Business
This type of business has disrupted countless industries, with newly minted small business owners taking the lead from corporations like Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia and Etsy, and realizing that it’s possible to turn a profit without throwing anybody under the bus.
B Corps have made it their mission to do business fairly, ethically and environmentally responsibly, while most bloated multinational corporations merely pay unhelpful lip service to these ideals.
And perhaps most remarkably? They’ve done all this even with corporate shills in control of nearly every branch of government. That’s a remarkable feat — and if it’s any indication of the kind of rational, level-headed, forward-thinking resistance Trump can expect after taking office, the future is looking anything but dire.