Many pundits who watched Wednesday night’s presidential debate concluded that the real winner was Joe, The Plumber, who was cited no less than 25 times by the two candidates. It turns out that Joe, as a hero, has feet of clay. For starters, he’s not a plumber. More precisely, he doesn’t have a plumber’s license, which could be a hindrance if you aspired to own a plumbing company. He owes about $1,200 in back taxes, which puts a new spin on the concerns he expressed about potential future taxes. And oh, by the way, his name isn’t Joe. It’s Samuel.
But in spite of these little problems, I think the focus on somebody who’s running or wants to run a small business is a good one. Unfortunately, it still hasn’t really helped us understand which candidate is the best for small manufacturing.
When you go into the voting booth in a couple of weeks or so, there are three issues related to manufacturing you have to think about.
The first issue is the Big Picture. We really do have a bit of a crisis on our hands, and there’s the question of who will handle it best at the highest levels. If you run a 23-person shop that manufactures gears for half a dozen customers, you probably don’t float commercial paper on a daily basis to keep your doors open. But your customers might. And even if they don’t, what happens nation-wide and even globally will eventually affect you.
The second issue is how well the candidates understand the problems of small manufacturers in particular, especially in the heartland where some of the worst problems exist. At this level, I haven’t heard many proposals from either candidate, although Sen. Obama’s idea of a $3000 tax credit for any business that creates a job is a start. All-in-all, however, both candidates seem to be better at serving up emotional stories about people who have lost their jobs than about the small businesses that create the lion’s share of new jobs. Neither, for example, has addressed the huge amount of paperwork the government requires, a problem which, presumably, the person running the government could do something about.
The third issue you’ll face is how each candidate’s policies will affect you personally. There has been a lot of argument about whose tax policies will really “cut taxes,” and how much those tax cuts might amount to. On this issue, there’s help. You can go to http://alchemytoday.com/obamataxcut/ and actually calculate your tax cut (if any) under each candidate’s stated plan. According to Dan Luria, Research Director at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, these are numbers you can trust.
In evaluating the candidates in respect to how they will help or not help your business and your personal situation, there’s one last factor to consider. If Sen. McCain wins, he’s almost certainly going to have to get his programs past a Democratically-controlled House and Senate, which will mean quite a bit of compromise and change. It Sen. Obama wins, his proposals are much more likely to pass intact, or in forms that only minimally altered.