Election 2016: Clinton and Trump on Small Business

Hillary Clinton released her small business plan this week, and I thought I’d take this opportunity to take quick side-by-side look at what the candidates are proposing to do in support of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.    At the broadest level, their proposals echo their personal styles.  Clinton’s plan is very wonky and very detailed, with lots of specific, focused ideas.  Trump’s plan is not really a plan, but he does throw out a lot of red meat related to cutting taxes, regulations, and red tape.

Let’s start with the Clinton plan which seemingly seeks to address every problem that ever bedeviled a small business owner.  She has detailed strategies for, among other things, business finance, start-up regulations, health care, and doing business with Uncle Sam.    Let me highlight a few of the newer and more interesting ideas in her plan:

  • Standardizing business license rules and costs across all states.  It’s not a huge hassle to start a business in the US, but it could be cheaper and less complex.  Clinton wants to incentive states and localities to use a cheaper and less burdensome standardized license tool.
  • Create a new standard tax deduction for small business.  If you’ve ever had to calculate a home office tax benefit or costs of your business phone/computer use, you’ll appreciate this idea that would create a single standardized credit that rolls up the complex mix of credits now in use.
  • Allow the deferral of student loan payments for new start-up entrepreneurs.   I want to see the details on this idea, but it does address a major impediment to business start-ups among younger Americans.

Her small business platform contains a lot more with promises to promote entrepreneurship for at-risk populations and regions, to promote greater tax and regulatory relief, and to improve the quality and responsiveness of programs run by the SBA and others.

Donald Trump doesn’t have a detailed plan, but he has laid out his basic ideas on his website and in a recent speech to the Detroit Economic Club.    Tax cuts are at the core of his agenda, and he promises that no American company will pay higher than a 15% annual tax rate—a significant cut from today’s corporate income tax rate which can be, on paper at least, as high as 39.6 percent.   Trump also embraces regulatory reform with a vengeance.  Upon taking office, he plans an immediate moratorium on all new regulations, and to remove “bureaucrats who only know how to kill jobs (and) replace them with experts who know who to create jobs.”   The identity of these experts is still to be determined but Trump puts great faith in the ability of experts to eliminate harmful regulations, improve our trade posture, and to support faster business growth.

Trump’s small business ideas are fairly mainstream—the basic outlines are not much different from what previous Presidential candidates and more mainstream Republicans have supported in the past.   In fact, there are close parallels to the ideas found in the economic plan now being promoted by House Speaker Paul Ryan.  Both plans follow a similar menu:  Use tax cuts and regulatory streamlining as the primary means to reduce burdens on entrepreneurs and free them to grow their companies.

As in all other parts of the campaign, the Clinton and Trump small business platforms could not be more distinctive and different.  Some of their rhetoric shares common themes, but their specific plans proceed in much different directions. They present a very clear choice, and a very different set of policies and priorities for supporting America’s small business economy.

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