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Longboat Key Wednesday, Sep. 19, 2012 5 years ago

My View: Yes, they built businesses; I've seen it firsthand

by: Edmund Adams

I was paying the owner of a Lake Cumberland, Ky., boat store for fixing the fuel gauge on our boat. Bracing his brawny arms on his chest-high counter, he remarked out of the blue, “The president doesn’t think I built this business. If I didn’t, who did?”

I told him “roads and bridges.”

“You mean government,” he sneered.

In one speech, President Obama insulted 1.1 million small business owners who generate jobs. Not only does the president seek to up their taxes, he demeans them as unworthy of credit for the jobs they’ve created.

According to Obama, you didn’t build your business, the government did, and you don’t deserve all those profits, the government does.

The president’s apologists may say that what the president meant was that we all get help along the way, but that’s clearly not the point he made.

As a 40-year corporate lawyer who represented dozens of small businesses, many from the beginning, I can tell you that the president’s point is hogwash. Many of my clients’ business beginnings were quite small: one started in a garage, another in the trunk of a car. Today, both of those businesses have large state-of-the-art facilities and dozens of employees.

The president says lots of people work hard. Small-business owners often work 12-hour days, seven days a week and pass many a sleepless night. It’s no 9-to-5 job. Until you’ve had to make a payroll, you don’t know the burden those owners bear. The burden can be multifaceted — harassment by a banker for payment or persecution by the EPA for an employee’s spill of a 55-gallon oil drum. A client of mine who had all of those burdens died prematurely a couple of years later.

The president says that lots of people are smart. Successful business owners are at least street smart, and they’re dedicated both to the business and their employees. One of my clients recuperated from open-heart surgery on a couch in the foyer of his offices. Many business owners during these recessionary times have had to dig into their personal reserves to avoid layoffs. And it goes without saying that they risk everything, including their homes, to make their businesses go.

Finally, what of the president’s campaign to increase small-business taxes? It’s hard to imagine anything more counterproductive to job creation. Because many such businesses operate as LLCs, S corporations, partnerships or sole proprietorships, the profits to the owners are taxed as personal income. In tough times for their businesses, many owners of those flow-through businesses don’t take out all of the profits they’re taxed on. For every dollar of increased tax, the owner has one less dollar for business operations, paying payroll and hiring new employees.

But the owners are all “rich” and “wealthy,” says the president. Just more Obama blarney. If a single mom owns a florist shop, makes $225,000 a year in her business, has no other income and no assets other than an inventory of flowers and vases and two lovely children she’s putting through college, she’s neither “rich” nor “wealthy.”

Sad to say, the heart of what the president attacks day after day is our free-enterprise system. He deprecates the success of small business owners and advocates the increased transfer to government of business income that truly can be used to create jobs.

All this from a president who has never created a private-sector job in his life. What does he know about job creation? Obviously, not very much.

Edmund Adams is a retired Cincinnati attorney who lives on Longboat Key.

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