Guest editorial -Carnahan misses the point with small business

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

By Trish Dunn

National Federation of Independent Business

Recently, an article appeared in the "West End Word," a local weekly in St. Louis, that was written about a group of small employers chosen to discuss their small-business concerns with Sen. Jean Carnahan. The conversations were filmed for an ad campaign to portray Carnahan as a supporter of small business. However, the group of small employers realized after voicing their worries to Carnahan that the microphones were turned off, and they were to be used as nothing more than a backdrop.

Being a small-business owner and NFIB member as well as a registered Democrat, I felt compelled to respond to the absurdity of Carnahan running an ad, with or without sound, showing her concern for issues important to small employers.

Her Senate voting record speaks for itself. She voted for continuing the federal ergonomics rules, the most expensive regulations ever to hit small business in ergonomics. And on health care, she voted against protecting employers small and large from new lawsuits and for the mandate-heavy Kennedy bill, which would add greatly to the huge health-care cost increases most small businesses are already receiving.

I find it especially interesting that one of the main issues this group of small employers discussed with Carnahan, which of course no one will every be allowed to hear, was "how wildly escalating health-insurance premiums were making it harder for small businesses to offer coverage to their employees." In fact, she voted not to help but to add to this very real problem.

Fortunately, small employers do have a candidate who actually represents them rather than just use them to get elected. Jim Talent, who has made fighting for small-business issues his No. 1 priority, sees small business as more than just a backdrop.

During his eight years in the U.S. House of Representatives he voted in support of small-business entrepreneurs 100 percent of the time, and as chairman of the Small Business Committee, legislation passed overwhelmingly to encourage veteran entrepreneurship, to help women start their own small businesses and to bolster the micro-loan program to help individuals who want to start their own small business.

Talent has also consistently fought to lower the number of working uninsured by supporting Association Health Plans (AHPs). AHPs allow small businesses to join together through existing trade and professional organizations to purchase health insurance as a group. AHPs would allow small employers to find affordable coverage for their employees, which they have named their No. 1 concern for more than a decade.

When it comes to standing up for small business, Talent's record is flawless. Carnahan will need to do more than just use small-business owners as background if she ever hopes to gain the support of a voting block that employs the majority of the nation's workforce and creates more new jobs than any other sector. Personally, I think she's a couple of votes too late.

Trish Dunn is a small-business owner from St. Louis. She is also a Leadership Council member of Missouri's 13,000-member chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). NFIB is the largest small-business advocacy group in the state and nationwide, representing more than 600,000 small-business owners across the country.

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