CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – FEBRUARY 25: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders … [+]
The latest in a series of Presidential Candidates’ Small Business Scorecards
Of all the progressive Presidential candidates in the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination, only one of them has admitted being a “socialist.”
Bernie Sanders, the Senator from Vermont who is making his second run for the Presidency, is the longest serving Independent in the history of the United States Congress. Although he is running for President as a Democrat, Sanders has long identified as an independent, and has referred to himself as a “democratic socialist.”
One would think that the concepts of “democratic socialism” and “small business” would mix about as well as Rosie O’Donnell at a Chick-fil-A board meeting. Is Bernie Sanders truly the enemy of small business that his self-identified “socialism” would imply?
What seems a certainty is that Bernie Sanders is the last candidate that large corporations would want in the Oval Office. Sanders would like to “finally make corporations pay their fair share of taxes by reversing Trump’s corporate tax breaks and closing corporate tax loopholes to raise up to $3 trillion over 10 years,” according to his own campaign website.
But when it comes to small businesses, Sanders has claimed he would be in their corner. He “wants to make sure that small businesses have the support they need to thrive and expand,” according to volunteers who put together the website feelthebern.org.
Sanders does have a record of supporting access to low-interest loans for small businesses and legislation, including the Small Business Jobs Act, to help small businesses succeed.
And, although Sanders and President Donald Trump are at diametrically opposite ends of most issues, they actually aren’t that far apart on the issue of trade. Both Trump and Sanders support more aggressive policies to protect domestic industries and jobs. Both have opposed international trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which have put each at odds with many members of their respective political parties.
“(Sanders) is the one person that, on trade, he sort of would agree (with me) on trade,” Trump told reporters in February 2019. “I am being very tough on trade. He is tough on trade. The problem is he doesn’t know what to do about it.”
Anti-trade stances are, in theory, supportive of preserving the jobs of American workers. Sanders did vote yes on the Bring Jobs Home Act that repeals tax deductions for companies that outsource jobs and establishes tax credits for companies that insource jobs.
So, Bernie’s all for the little guy, and that means he’s all for small businesses, right?
Well, perhaps not.
Another Bernie, the co-founder of Home Depot, Bernie Marcus, called Sanders “the enemy of every entrepreneur that’s ever going to be born in the country and has been born in the past,” in a June 2019 interview on the Fox Business Network. Ken Langone, who co-founded Home Depot with Marcus, said in the same interview, “If the people in America today … if they want to know what the future holds for them following Bernie Sanders, go to Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, Eastern Europe. Guess what? It doesn’t work.”
Bernie Sanders’ tax plan would, theoretically, be targeting only the “very wealthy.” But according to Gene Marks, founder of The Marks Group, the tax proposals of Sanders and Democrat Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren “are not just attacking big businesses. They’re attacking what all business and entrepreneurism represents: Profits, owners vs. workers and yes, good old-fashioned American greed. By using the ‘1 percent’ as their representation of evil, these candidates are forgetting that, in our little bubbles of the small companies we run, we’re also the 1 percent. Our employees see that. And – given the opportunity – they would resent it.”
Another red flag for Bernie Sanders’ potential impact on small businesses is his stance on the minimum wage. If any increase in the minimum wage is too large, it could have potentially catastrophic effects on small businesses—and, by extension, teens and young adults who are seeking employment and looking to enter the workforce not to make a living wage, per se, but just to start earning an income and getting job experience.
“The current $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage is a starvation wage. It must be increased to a living wage of $15 an hour,” Sanders has said.
A rate of $15 an hour could preclude many cash-strapped small business owners from hiring the help they need to make their business operate efficiently. Even a $1 per hour hike in the minimum wage could cost small business owners “tens of thousands of dollars in additional payroll costs each year – dipping into their bottom line and making it more difficult for them to turn a profit,” according to TSheets.
“According to (a) third-party survey of 500 small business owners across the country, 14 percent say they will be forced to let employees go if and when the minimum wage rises in their state. Another 28 percent admit a higher minimum wage would restrict them from hiring additional help and therefore growing their business.”
Past Leadership: C
Future Plans: D
Overall Grade: C-