Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Old Fashioned Way

Suddenly it has become fashionable to work for a living. The reality that many of our largest companies have been gambling for their profits has put a focus on the little guy, the small businesses that are now responsible for most employment and growth in this country. Investing in the market has hurt a lot of people too, again pointing out that there is more to business than giant companies. We don't have a lobby in Washington, and we don't solicit investment, putting us out of the public eye and money stream, but it's becoming obvious to many that small business is the economic driver, not the rich, not the mega corps. Over half of the non-government jobs in this country are from small businesses, many of which are resilient and immune to knee jerk corporate decision making, like pre-emptive layoffs.

Hopefully this awareness will have an effect on public policy. It's not likely, of course. Washington runs on money and public opinion, so it's only when small business is noticed that it gets any respect. We get no benefits whatsoever from the giant stimulus package, for example. Congress is considering restrictions on merchant credit card fees, but it's mostly working off the populist momentum of reigning in consumer credit card abuses. They're not thinking of us, they're most likely getting pressure from the Mega-Low-Marts of the world who see the banks in a weak position. They have lobbyists.

Still, I think the public in general is looking around and realizing that a lot of our economy is smoke and mirrors. We don't produce much. We increasingly outsource our services, and when our monstrous level of consumption begins to falter, we start looking around the place to see what else we've got, and that's how small business got noticed. It's also where innovation and the seeds for recovery and future growth will likely emerge. You don't have to be a Yahoo or Google, you just need to be willing to eek out a living, making something from nothing. In exchange you gain your freedom.

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