Some unsettling—yet not surprising—numbers were released yesterday from NFIB’s Small Business Optimism Index. The report, which gauges the outlook of the small business community, found that confidence among business owners plunged to its lowest level in eight months in June. Coupled with dismal jobs numbers, the index reaffirms that policymakers need to work with small businesses to create solutions instead of continuing to put more barriers in the way of their success.
Today’s news should not come as much of a shock to anyone—on Main Street or Pennsylvania Avenue. Small businesses have been voicing concerns about the escalating rate of Washington overreach for a long time, and the Small Business Optimism Index has been on the decline since March. Unfortunately, business owners’ worries seem to have fallen on deaf ears inside federal agencies where regulators keep pushing forward at an even greater pace.
It’s not hard to understand small businesses’ distress. In the past five years the number of regulations costing Americans $100 million or more has increased by 60 percent, and today there are about 4,000 pieces regulation pending in Washington. Keeping up with these rules places a heavy burden on already strapped small businesses, and the uncertainty of what’s to come prevents them from investing or hiring. A Vistage International survey earlier this month found a majority of small businesses decreased their hiring plans for the year, and economic uncertainty was the most common reason why.
Washington frequently says it wants to help create jobs, but how can it do so when it appears regulators and small businesses are on opposite teams? Instead, federal agencies need to partner with business owners to formulate policies that meet our regulatory needs, help businesses function more effectively, impose fewer costs, and stimulate economic growth.
It’s important policymakers act now. Each moment spent waiting new rules are coming down the pipeline. What’s worse, the full effect of many regulations already in place won’t fully hit until after November’s elections.
As November approaches, other hot-button issues will compete for attention among both candidates. But whatever the outcome of this year’s election, both candidates’ vows to get America’s economy back on track must include a practical regulatory reform. Not only do small businesses need it, long-term economic recovery does as well.