Monday, September 29, 2008

For What It is Worth

This letter reprinted at the Corner is interesting to me:

Just thought I’d send some thoughts from small-business America. My husband’s business is a canary in the coalmine. When tax policies are favorable to business, he hires more guys, buys more goods, etc. When he is taxed more heavily, he fires people, doesn’t buy anything new, etc. Well, duh. So, at the mere thought of a President Obama, he has paid off his debt, canceled new spending, and jotted a list of whom to “let go.”

The first of the guys will get the news tomorrow. And these are not minimum-wage earners. These are “rich” guys, making between $200,000 and $250,000 a year.

My husband will make sure that we’re okay, money-wise, but he won’t give himself a paycheck that will just be sent to Washington. He’ll make sure that he’s not in “rich guy” tax territory. So, he will not spend his money, not show a profit, and scale his workforce down to the bare minimum.

Multiply this scenario across the country and you’ll see the Obama effect: unemployment, recession, etc. No business owner will vote for this man, but many a “middle-class worker” will vote himself out of a job. Sad the Republican can’t articulate this.
My father owns a small business, probably a bit smaller than the one in this letter, and his views are precisely the same as those expressed in the letter. He already pays huge taxes, and he is terrified of an Obama presidency.

I think my dad could have dealt with Hillary Clinton. He would not have liked it, but he would have done it, and he probably would not have been so worried. The same goes for me.

I know many of our readers and contributors think we are too partisan for McCain this election cycle, but in our defense, there is nothing conservative about Obama, even in a big tent.

Obama's apparent lack of conservatism should worry everyone today, because the last time we had a financial crisis followed up by political leaders who engaged in the rhetoric of class warfare, it did not turn out so well. And at the end of the day, it really is irrelevant whether or not Obama's policies truly threaten businesses, small and otherwise, because if they think that's the case, they'll shut it down, climb in the bunker, and wait for friendlier times.

Admittedly, the letter above and my dad's views are just a couple of data points, anecdotal to the extreme, but do we want to gamble on this point right now?


Anonymous said...


I would be the first to admit that the left wing of the Dems are not friendly to business, but the Democratic establishment is comprised of thoroughgoing capitalists. Robert Rubin and Larry Summers along with Sam Nunn and David Boren (the fp establishment & conservative Dems) have all heartily endorsed Obama. Clinton, JFK, and even Carter were friendly to business. Will Obama have policies that some in business object to? Of course. But Obama is not some wild-eyed socialist and he isn't employing any irresponsible class warfare.

I am optimistic no matter who wins--I just think Obama will do a better job. I would hope my conservative friends would have a bit more faith in their fellow Americans, even if they are Democrats.


Tom said...


I know this is your standard response--that all of us need to have faith that our fellow Americans are not as bad as the caricatures make it seem. Agreed. There are plenty of Democrats who are reasonable to conservatives. There are plenty of Democrats who are less reasonable to conservatives, but are politicians enough to work with opposing parties (Senator Clinton falls into this group, by my estimation).

Senator Obama, at this point, does not appear to be in either of these groups. The messiah talk is heavyhanded, but it resonated with people because Obama carries himself as if he has all the answers, and thus does not need to compromise. He has not tacked to center in any way since the end of the primaries. For example, when asked in the debate how he would cut spending, he talked about new or expanded programs for early childhood education. He has explicitly gone after big oil companies, treating them like robber barons.

More to the point, whether or not any of these views are precisely accurate, and I think Obama is more radical than reasonable folks like you want to admit, the fact of the matter is that he appears to all sorts of business owners to be radical. That was the point of my post, and that is the point of the critique of FDR, especially for the Second New Deal. If a president talks ("neighborly" or "patriotic") about soaking the rich (whether through capital gains taxes or increased income taxes on a rich that includes most small businesses or whatever) anyone who might be in that class is going to try not to get soaked. That means they shut down activities, and with them goes the economy.

And all this is strictly on domestic issues, where the conservative/liberal divide is somewhat clearer. I also have serious concerns about Obama's foreign policy thinking, but those problems do not fall along ideological lines in any sort of meaningful way, so I'll leave it there for now.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps small business owners should actually read Obama's economic plan, instead of just develop knee-jerk anti-liberals views. Here's the part, taken straight from Obama's website, that ought to assuage the fears of Tom's dad.
Support Small Business:
1. Provide Tax Relief for Small Businesses and Start Up Companies: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will eliminate all capital gains taxes on start-up and small businesses to encourage innovation and job creation. Obama and Biden will also support small business owners by providing a $500 “Making Work Pay” tax credit to almost every worker in America. Self-employed small business owners pay both the employee and the employer side of the payroll tax, and this measure will reduce the burdens of this double taxation.
2. Create a National Network of Public-Private Business Incubators: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will support entrepreneurship and spur job growth by creating a national network of public-private business incubators. Business incubators facilitate the critical work of entrepreneurs in creating start-up companies. Obama and Biden will invest $250 million per year to increase the number and size of incubators in disadvantaged communities throughout the country.

Tom said...

Right, the problem is that my dad and other small business owners are ignorant of Senator Obama's plans. And if only they knew that Obama and Biden planned a $500 dollar tax credit for workers and incubators for start-ups in disadvantaged communities, then they wouldn't be so knee-jerk in their reactions. Exactly.

Anonymous said...

I was not suggesting your dad is ignorant. I merely posted the section of Obama's plans that should make it clear to small business owners that they need not fear him. It was a response to your comment "More to the point, whether or not any of these views are precisely accurate . . . the fact of the matter is that he appears to all sorts of business owners to be radical." Which seemed to suggest that it was merely ther perception of business leaders that caused concern. And I find it interesting that you would make the $500 reference, but ignore the elimination of capital gains taxes.
Perhaps the question is, what is it that small business owners want that isn't in Obama's plan for them?

Tom said...

I ignored the elimination of the capital gains tax because it is so vague on who they define as small businesses that it has no meaning. Obama is going to raise the rate from 15% to 20% on families making more than $250,000, and keep it the same on families making less than that, but there are no specifics that I can find about what the small business claim means.

Read the Obama-Biden plan for small businesses, which is largely about government spending programs (many specifically for women, the disadvantaged, and minorities). Compare to the McCain-Palin plan, which is almost entirely about cutting or maintaining current tax rates (for corporations, estates, individuals, research and development costs, and new technologies).

They both have health care ideas, but I frankly do not know which one would help small businesses more. My impression is that small business owners do not want anything from either candidate, except to have less of a tax burden across the board. Since most of them are in business to make money (hopefully doing what they love) I suspect that they are troubled by Senators Obama and Biden's promise that for every dollar more that they make, they cross some new threshold of duty, patriotism, or neighborliness to pay more taxes to fund the trillion dollars in new spending for "disadvantaged" interest groups.

Robert C. said...


The idea that for "every dollar more that they make, they cross some new threshold of duty, patriotism, or neighborliness to pay more taxes" is a common idea in progressive taxation, not a nefarious scheme dreamt up by Obama and Biden. Lots of mainstream conservatives and liberals support progressive taxation.

But of course you're right: your dad and the letter-writer's husband would have more money and lower costs if they didn't have to pay taxes. Using that tax money to fund new small-business development seems like a net loss or at best a wash for small businesses.

On the other hand, I'm not sure how to take John McCain seriously about economic policies. I hear about cutting back earmarks and wasteful spending, but more tax cuts plus war plus no cuts in entitlement leading to higher and higher budget deficits -- is that going to be good for the country? My sense of McCain's flip-flopping on tax cuts and his pandering on irrelevancies like earmarks and the gas tax makes me think McCain's just not serious about the economy.

If we're not going to cut entitlements or defense spending, we will need to pay more taxes than under the Bush or McCain tax plans. We might want to argue that the increase in taxes should be felt by all Americans, rather than just the top 5%, but I don't think a tax increase is irresponsible.

At any rate, smart businessmen will look past the perception and realize that they'll make more money -- even under Obama's tax policies -- by growing their businesses. If a business would save money by hiring fewer workers, I'd assume that business would do so anyway, no matter what the tax burden.

And the real reason to climb into the bunker, of course, is that the economy is heading south no matter who takes office in January. Whether friendlier times return sooner rather than later will depend, in part, on the next President, but ... it's hard for me to see a continuation of the economic policies of the past eight years as a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Since like 95% of small-business owners, I make less than $250,000 per year, raising the tax rate on those who make more than that would make it harder for me to pocket the change rather than invest in capital or hire another employee. But what can I say? I hate expanding my business, growing the economy and decreasing unemployment.

So you're right, Robert. If I were smart, I would look past this and focus on how to expand opportunites for myself and everybody. But I'm too greedy to do that. Heck! If Wall Street can be a part of ruining the country, then so can I, Dammit!


Tom's Dad.

P.S. Son - Thanks for doing a good job arguing my case. You almost portray me in a sympathetic way!

Tom said...

To all of our readers:

As you all know, we will happily discuss issues with mature thoughtful readers like Jeff and Robert C., even if we disagree with them, because that is what intellectual honesty is all about. (And I will get back to Robert C.'s points later.)

We have much more of a problem having a serious discussion with folks who do not have the common courtesy or courage of their convictions not to hide behind anonymity. I, for one, am no longer interested in having adult discussions with people who don't act like adults. It is easy to be snarky and dismissive when you are not in any risk of anyone knowing who you are. Which, of course, makes you a coward.

All that said, it takes a particularly depraved coward, even on a blog comment board, to pretend to speak for someone else to make a pathetic partisan case. I suppose I could say that we should expect no better from people of a certain ideological ilk, but that would be unfair to the grown-ups like Jeff, Robert, and Derek who do not deserve to be grouped in with the poor angry souls who spend their not so precious time crying for attention or reflected importance by stalking the comment boards of even the humblest of venues.

So let me leave it at this: whoever wrote the comment purporting to be my dad could not imagine even in his wildest of dreams ever approaching the man he claimed to be.

I will leave that comment there, as a reminder of the coward's lack of honor. Not that it will matter to him, because unlike my father, who is as great a man as I have ever known, the coward has proven for all to see that honor means absolutely nothing to him.

To the coward: In case any of that is unclear , I am calling you out. I am questioning, for all to see, your courage, honor, and manhood. So prove again who you are. Run and hide from accountability. We already know how you will respond.


Thomas Anthony Bruscino, Jr.

dcat said...

I want to second Tom's last comment. I think he's butt-naked wrong on this one, but the idea that someone would come in and purport to speak for Tom's Dad, whose presence here only comes through Tom's invocation of him, is slimy, unfair, sort of creepy, and given the anonymity, particularly cowardly even in the world of anonymous commenting, which I believe to be cowardly to begin with.