Where Does Obama Stand? A Small Business Primer

In about two months, the responsibility of running our country will be put into the hands of President-Elect Barack Obama. For me, as a small business owner, the thought of a new administration in the White House automatically conjures up a funny mixture of hope, anxiety, and nervous anticipation.

Rarely in history has a new president inherited so many acute problems requiring such immediate attention and far-reaching solutions.

In the grand scope of things, it seems that the plight of new and established small businesses could easily get lost in the shuffle.

Although it remains to be seen whether or not that will happen, it certainly pays to be informed about Obama’s attitude on the business sector and the direction he intends to take on relevant issues.

To that end, I have compiled the following summary of President-Elect Barack Obama’s stance on several key points directly effecting small businesses and start-ups.

Tax Reductions and Credits: Obama is in favor of several tax reductions and refundable credits with the goal of reducing the corporate tax burden and stimulating growth. Here are the highlights:

  • Exempt investors from the capital gains tax on their investments in small businesses and startups if they made their investment when a small company was valued below a certain threshold.

  • Make the Research and Development tax credit permanent so that firms will rely on it when making decisions to invest in domestic R&D.

  • Establish a “Making Work Pay” tax credit of up to $500 per person, or $1,000 per working family. This can benefit self-employed small business owners who end up paying both the employee and the employer side of the payroll tax.

  • Make the Renewable Production Tax Credit permanent so that farmers and investors can increase renewable energy production and create new local jobs.

  • Extend the Section 179 tax deduction, which increases the amount businesses can write off on their taxes for capital investments in new equipment, through 2009.

  • Offer a 50% refundable credit for employee health insurance premiums paid by the employer.

  • Freeze the exemption amount of estates free from the estate tax at $3.5 million and top estate tax rate at 45%.

  • Give a temporary tax credit of $3,000 in 2009 and 2010 to companies that maintain or increase the number of full-time workers in America.

Business Development Programs and Job Creation: Obama plans on initiating and expanding several programs to encourage business development and growth as well as increase the number of jobs available to American workers

  • Create a national network of public and private business incubators to support entrepreneurship and spur job growth. Obama wants to further invest $250 million per year to increase the number and size of incubators in disadvantaged communities.

  • Fund federal workforce training programs and direct these programs to incorporate “green” technologies training.

  • Expand the SBA’s direct-lending Disaster Loan Program to extend loans to companies affected by the economic downturn and credit crunch.

  • Temporarily eliminate fees and increase the amount guaranteed by the government through the SBA’s 7(a) and 504 programs, which insure lenders against defaults on small business loans.

  • Create an Advanced Manufacturing Fund to identify and invest in the most compelling advanced manufacturing strategies.

Increased Business Responsibility: Obama wants businesses to increase their obligation to provide for their employees

  • Introduce a plan to increase income tax for those earning over $250,000 at a rate of 2% to 4% – half of which would be paid by the employer.

  • Require employers to either offer a health care plan, help pay for employee health care costs or pay into a national health care network.

  • Require employers to automatically enroll their employees in 401(k)s or IRAs.

  • Raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011 and tie future rises to inflation.

  • Encourage states to adopt paid leave systems by providing a $1.5 billion fund to assist states with start-up costs and to help them offset the costs for employees and employers.

  • Create a program to inform businesses about the benefits of flexible work schedules; help businesses create flexible work opportunities; and increase federal incentives for telecommuting.

Worker’s Rights: Obama strongly supports worker rights, with an emphasis on their involvement in unions and their ability to organize.

  • Work to initiate the Employee Free Choice Act that will guarantee employees the right to join unions and organize without harassment from employers.

  • Overturn efforts to limit the definition of those workers who qualify for the workers’ right to organize.

  • Introduce legislation to ban the permanent replacement of striking workers, so workers can bargain collectively without fear that they will lose their jobs.

  • Expand the Family and Medical Leave Act to cover businesses with 25 or more employees (instead of 50) and to cover more situations as well, including allowing workers to take leave for elder care needs.

  • Enforce the recently-enacted Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines on caregiver discrimination.

For more information, check out this recent article for a basic summary on Obama’s platform. You can also surf on over to Obama’s official website.

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