I am an entrepreneur. Starting with a $15,000 loan in 1980, my wife and I took over a bankrupt weekly newspaper in Chico, with annual revenues of around a quarter-of-a-million dollars and built it up to a $6 million company—with three newspapers and a $3.5 million payroll. We are entrepreneurs! But, unlike some members of the Republican Party and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, I do not believe that making things easier for entrepreneurs will solve all of America's problems. I am not an entrepreneur groupie.
Please don’t get me wrong: I think entrepreneurs play an important role in America. But so do third-grade teachers. So do police chiefs and nurses. I would struggle to teach junior-high students, or run a church, a nonprofit, or a government agency. The difficulties of meeting a payroll can certainly can be challenging, but this does not compare to the stress of having a sick child, or not knowing if your family can make rent.
America is having a national debate on income inequality, with Rep. Paul Ryan on one side and President Barack Obama on the other. Should we address income inequality with incentives for business owners, or should our attention be directed toward those living in poverty?
“Lower the corporate tax rate!” is the solution proposed by some. But as a business owner, the corporate tax rate will rarely influence my decision about whether or not to move forward with a business investment. Just as an employee would not turn down a raise because it would mean an increase in their income tax, I would not turn down a profitable investment because of a higher corporate tax.
And the problem with our economy is not the lack of entrepreneurs. For instance, let’s say a cool new restaurant opens up, employing dozens of people. Entrepreneur groupies will rave about the jobs created by this new establishment. But what’s not been created is more money to be spent eating out. These new restaurant sales are coming at the expense of sales elsewhere—perhaps at restaurants that are going out of business or cutting back their workforce.
It is only when we have a bit more cash in our pockets that we can eat out more. This is how to truly increase restaurant jobs and build the economy.
America’s increasing income inequality is not only a fairness issue. It is also hurting our economy. I support an increase in the minimum wage, which would transfer wealth to the most needy, who would then support the economy by spending their increased cash.
I’d like to build the economy from a solid foundation. I’d like to build the economy from the bottom up.