Amid much wrangling over how to allocate funds out of an increasingly out-of-control federal budget, the editors and writers at eight of the TechMediaNetwork’s sites sought the advice of dozens of researchers, technologists, futurists, analysts and business owners in fields ranging from space and Earth science to health and technological innovation.
We asked one simple question:
If you could ask President Obama and Congress to do one thing related to your field that would be for the good of the economy and the country, what would it be and why?
The insightful answers are presented in six linked articles on SPACE.com, LiveScience, TechNewsDaily, MyHealthNewsDaily, SecurityNewsDaily, and BusinessNewsDaily, with reporting also provided by the staffs of OurAmazingPlanet and InnovationNewsDaily.
At BusinessNewsDaily, we asked respondents to focus their answers on small business in general. Here are their replies:
Abolish all lobbying and agree to term limits in Congress. Nothing hinders my business, and many others more than lobbyists who do not have the people’s interest first and the morons in Congress who hurt, not help small businesses.
Star of M*A*S*H and Founder of Wayne Rogers & Company
I believe there are several actions Washington can take to help small businesses and startups succeed, particularly as we emerge from an economic downturn and are poised to drive job creation and growth. First, a tax break for small businesses that hire within the U.S. would be extremely beneficial. For example, many of us are forced to hire technical (in our case, software engineers) and other talent abroad since we simply cannot afford the high costs of this labor locally. Even though a U.S.-based staff has greater potential to provide efficiency in our operations and help in driving the country’s economic recovery, small businesses simply do not have the financial bandwidth to secure top talent otherwise.
Washington also needs to continue to provide educational incentives and financial support for the study of math and science, which truly provide the backbone for innovation and start-up growth. President Obama brought attention to this in his recent State of the Union address, calling for the nation to come together to “Win the Future” by out-innovating and out-educating other nations in this increasingly competitive world. I hope that we see this put into action, particularly with strong incentives to encourage young talent to take on the unique risks and rewards of working for a small business in an entrepreneurial environment.
As CEO of FreeMortgageFix we are constantly getting clients that find us after finding little or no results from working with a nonprofit, usually government backed or supported organizations. This clearly shows the inability of Washington to execute its programs efficiently. It seems at times that they are more willing to throw money, resources and rewards towards non profits, while neglecting to keep in mind the end goal which is obviously to help the homeowners. On a daily basis I see the press and varying organizations push people towards the public sector to help with their financial needs, but there seems to be a huge void between the public and private sectors in regards to effectiveness. FreeMortgageFix.com was created in light of this large gap and helps give homeowners a free web software based resource to apply for Federal assistance via the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).
Another qualm with Washington is the inability to give “teeth” to many of its programs. Over a year after the announcement of the Making Home Affordable Program only a small fraction of the people that qualify have actually received assistance. This is due largely to the inability for the government to enforce its procedures on an institutional level. While the guidelines are clearly stated we are seeing that it can take over a year for the lenders and institutions to actually sign on and more importantly implement.
FreeMortgageFix.com is calling for two very important necessities from Washington to not only help our business be more effective but also for our government programs to be more efficient: 1. Incorporate technology into programs in order to streamline implementation 2. Give penalties for institutions that don’t implement the program within reasonable timelines.
Washington could provide tax incentives for start-up companies who are creating new jobs and hiring individuals off of the unemployment rolls.
-- Mark Hall
Rather than continue to patch up their problems with subsidies from the Federal Government, President Obama and Congress should encourage states and local governments to solve their fiscal problems by outsourcing more of the tasks needed by their communities to the private sector, which pays market-based wages and collects revenue at market prices.
President, Biederman Redevelopment Ventures
The Obama Administration and Congress talk a lot about being more Green, seeking clean air and sustainability,
but they need to walk the talk. They should be helping companies like ours, indoor air purification small businesses, with tax and financial breaks, which will help us add jobs in sales, service and increase manufacturing. Green government initiatives will add jobs and increase productivity. The President and Congress have not been forceful enough in helping small Green businesses.
CEO, AtmosAir Solutions
As an entrepreneur and exporter to more than 100 countries, I would urge President Obama to carry through with his plan to double U.S. exports over the next five years. He’s made some progress supporting the South Korean Free Trade Agreement, but it has yet to be ratified, despite the fact that it is expected to generate $11 billion in revenue to the U.S. and create some 70,000 U.S. jobs. The next step is for him to speed through the ratification of the Free Trade Agreements with Panama and Colombia. Combined with the South Korean Free Trade Agreement the three will be worth some $13 billion to the U.S. That means an increase in American jobs and revenue.
CEO, The Legacy Companies
America has, and will always have, great minds that drive innovation both at home and abroad. Unfortunately, the American Brand often carries more weight around the world than it does here in the States.
And I think that highlights a disconnect in how U.S. manufactured products are being promoted.
While the government could step in by helping U.S. manufacturers raise capital, simplify corporate reporting and offer a tax-free holiday period, what is going to drive consumer demand to “Buy American” is not just cost but awareness.
My company manufactures the most technologically-advanced medical scrubs on the market today. They were developed in the U.S. and unlike 99.9% of our competitors, are manufactured here as well. And while the financial incentives from the government would be helpful, promoting awareness of U.S. made products would most impact our bottom line.
I would ask Congress and the President to consider a targeted strategy to better inform consumers about where products were manufactured. While
there are third-parties verifying manufacturing processes in order to receive a “Made in the U.S.A.” seal, I believe if the government was to issue this certification, along with a tax incentive, and promote it aggressively that given the choice consumers would choose to buy American; as much for the patriotism as for the product quality.
CEO, Performance Healthcare Products Inc.
If I could ask President Obama and Congress to do one thing related to online communication and education
that would benefit both the economy and country, it would be to revisit the debate over net neutrality issues and how they apply to the broadband spectrum. Although the Obama administration has proposed regulatory efforts to encourage the development of high-speed wireless coverage, Congress has failed to protect the business interests of small businesses and entrepreneurs, as last week House Republicans moved to block the FCC’s net-neutrality regulations that were voted on last December.
These regulations prohibit Internet service providers from creating “paid prioritization” channels on broadband services, favoring the websites and content of their business partners or anyone else who can pay extra, in addition to blocking specific websites and content from reaching end-users. Although these regulations still give them the flexibility to deal with network congestion and unwanted traffic from spam, certain members of Congress have expressed the belief that government has no place in the business of running the Internet. However, shouldn’t it be the business of government to protect the Internet and the freedom of information?
Without the protections of net-neutrality, small businesses and start-up entrepreneurs will face even more difficult economic challenges to survive. Congress needs to create a level playing field if they want to ensure that we, as businesspeople and innovators, continue creating a more open and inter-connected society. If Internet service providers are openly allowed to discriminate against small website owners and content providers, it will protect the interests of big business and crush any innovation and competition from smaller companies and start-up founders who cannot pay for “top-tier access” to users on the network. Competition is a critical element in driving innovation and the advancement of society.
Not only will businesses be affected by the government’s failure to protect the tenants of net-neutrality, but Internet users as well. Without even knowing it, they may be cut off from websites and information simply because the Internet service provider isn’t getting paid for the amount of traffic the site is generating. For example, Wikipedia is one of the Internet’s most resourceful websites, but generates very little revenue. Since they have such a high amount of traffic and no money to pay each specific Internet service provider’s “prioritization fee”, they could find themselves with limited access or even blocked on certain providers and cut off from their users.
Although I applaud President Obama and Congress’s efforts to focus on the development of new high-speed broadband networks to encourage growth in business and the economy, they must do something to keep the playing field level for all businesses, not just those who can pay the Internet service provider’s premium. We need to see the Internet becoming a much more open environment for both users and content providers, not closed, limiting access to only those who can afford it. If President Obama and Congress do not address the debate surrounding net-neutrality and we, as a nation, continue along this path, it will only serve to slow the growth of the social, technological, and economic advancement of our society.
Social Media & Community Manager, HeyKiki
I’m in the business of helping small business owner’s deal with complicated payroll reporting and compliance issues. You think I’d want more, but enough is enough. I was very happy the U.S. House of Representative and Senate approved repealing a mandate that would have required small businesses to file 1099 forms with the IRS for every vendor paid more than $600 a year. There are at least a half dozen existing reporting issues that are a time suck for businesses, many related to payroll reporting. Government should turn to small businesses to understand those issues, and review and revise them. In addition to cutting the burden for business owners, it’s likely to decrease the government’s workload.
Small business is America ’s key growth engine that will help restore our disappearing middle class. In my
opinion, there are four strategic changes Washington can enact that will help all small businesses flourish.
First, create an Employment Growth tax credit that small businesses can apply for if they meet and sustain employee growth and retention requirements. For example, if a small business increases their quantity of employees by 20% and retains those employees for 12 months, the company would be eligible to receive a tax credit to off-set the high market value of hiring new workers.
Second, issue a Health Care Insurance tax credit that small businesses can apply for if they voluntarily provide group plans and demonstrate that their company is insuring a larger percentage of their workforce, for the sake of conversation, let’s say that it needs to be a 20% increase. One of the most important perks of employment is insurance and small businesses cannot compete with larger companies due to the unwieldy and constantly increasing health care insurance costs. With the major health care debate going on in our nation’s capital, this issue may end up being resolved in another way, but in the meantime, it’s an issue that needs to be addressed to help companies afford the staff they have and potentially increase their workforce.
Third, guarantee Capital Lending Access for small businesses if they are able to demonstrate a 10% growth in revenue for 2 consecutive years. Our country is shifting toward service industries and businesses with little or no inventory; and, as we all know, it is extremely difficult to get banks and other financial lending institutions to extend loans or lines of credit without some sort of collateral or capital assets to secure the investment. Washington can alleviate the problem and help accelerate growth by providing a capital lending guarantee or backstop for small businesses.
And fourth, relax the Employment Visa rules so we can keep the intellectual capital we create by educating foreign students. In my experience, it’s been hard to find good employees who specialize in the math and engineering fields when the pool of perspective students is limited by citizenship or Visa status. By reducing the constrictions of Employment Visas, Washington can help the country realize the lost ROI we have experienced by educating these students and sending them home.
I would like to see Washington policy makers clean up the patent system. As a business owner, I have been surprised with the number of firms that exist by extorting money from small businesses by claiming patent infringement on a patent they have no intent of using. On top of that, there’s a good chance that many of these patents should have never been issued. But the cost to fight to invalidate them is so high that, as if black-mailed, businesses are generally forced to pay just to make them go away. This practice directly harms honest businesses that provide valuable services to society. At a minimum, if the patent owner is not actively using a patent, it should expire sooner or not be enforceable. Our lawmakers should be urged to get rid of this parasitic practice.
Chairman and Co-Founder, CSN Stores
See more responses to the same question in other fields: