By Clifton Broumand
The writer is the owner of Man & Machine Inc. in Landover. He is one of the 85,000 small business owners in Small Business Majority’s network.
When the Surfside condo building in Florida collapsed, it was more than a failure of concrete and steel. This tragedy also represented a failure to plan ahead, which should serve as a wake up call for the way we think about maintaining and improving our country’s infrastructure.
Florida law permits condominium boards not to hold any funds in reserve if a majority of unit owners in a building vote against saving money for items like building repairs and upkeep. As Surfside demonstrated, this law can have disastrous consequences. It also shows the dangers of thinking only about today. If we take a similar approach to America’s infrastructure and do not make an investment now in the roads, bridges, airports and broadband network that small businesses like mine need to survive and thrive, our small businesses could face a future collapse.
If we want to support the current crop of America’s entrepreneurs and lay the groundwork that will allow the next generation to blossom, we need to turn the page on years of bad policies and enact a status-quo-busting, playing-field-evening and small-business-prioritizing package like the one that has been slowly moving through Congress, and endorsed by the White House.
Congress must also address the fact that the prior administration’s policies did not help small businesses or many white and blue collar workers. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act did nothing to promote a fair tax system. Instead, small business owners are still paying a disproportionate share of taxes. Why do large companies get away with paying no taxes on billions of dollars of profit, while small companies like mine have to pay a larger percentage?
Then came the enactment of tariffs on Chinese goods, which increased the cost of making my products by 25% overnight. As a result of the tariffs and COVID-19-related delays, I’ve had to pay more taxes and shipping costs for my components. My products now cost more than a few years ago. It is difficult to make products in the U.S. if my costs are forced higher by governmental tariffs and taxes.
Since I am sourcing components at home, I’m more dependent than ever on America’s roads and bridges. That means streets in poor condition can slow down delivery trucks and increase wear and tear on those vehicles — both of which can cost my business money. I also have a sales team that travels the country, and they often report issues with internet access when they’re on the move, making it harder for them to connect with me and our clients.
Although owning and operating a business in America is relatively more expensive, I am proud to be headquartered in the United States. I am also proud to be a Maryland-based company, and to invest in my local community through jobs and taxes. That is why it is frustrating when our leaders do not invest in the basics needed to ensure a thriving and competitive economy in return. This is certainly true on the federal level, but it’s also the case locally.
In fact, Maryland received a “C” on its Infrastructure Report Card in a recent White House analysis. No state received above a “C+.”
Small businesses agree: We need to do better. A recent poll by Small Business Majority found that 78% of small businesses support improving our physical infrastructure, and 76% support expanded and enhanced broadband infrastructure.
What’s more, small businesses said we should pay for these improvements through a fairer tax system: 3 in 4 small businesses support a proposal that would establish a 15% minimum tax on profits that the largest corporations report to their investors. This change would go a long way toward taking the burden of paying for infrastructure improvements off small businesses like mine.
Our economy isn’t working for everyone, and many of the people we’re failing own small businesses.
We need bold action to ensure that entrepreneurs can recover from the pandemic and be better positioned to withstand the next crisis. We need serious infrastructure improvements like better roads, bridges and broadband that should be paid for through long-overdue tax reform.
Although the package supported by President Biden and a group of senators does not fully address all of those needs, it is at least a great start. If we do nothing, small businesses that are already struggling under the weight of harmful trade policies and COVID-19 will continue to face existential challenges.