Op-EdAppeared in U.S. News & World Report on December 21, 2012By Mike Whalen

Not a Merry Christmas for Small Business

Mike Whalen is a Job Creators Alliance member and the president and CEO of Heart of America Group, which developed, owns and operates 27 restaurants and hotels in 10 metropolitan areas of six Midwestern states.

As most Americans are eagerly counting down to the holidays, another countdown is also ticking down. With four days until Christmas, there are 11 days left until the fiscal cliff, which is nothing more than the creation of Washington’s gridlock and failure to lead. And while families enjoy gifts, too many of them will be left waiting for what they really want: more jobs. Most Americans understand that in order to have more jobs, we need more job creators, yet job creators remain sidelined due to the effects of uncertainty–fueled by lawmakers’ partisan posturing. While so much of the discussion in the media has centered on what will happen once we either go over or avoid the fiscal cliff, the reality is that major damage has already been done to steal the entrepreneurial–and Christmas–joy of America’s job creators.

What do America’s small business owners and entrepreneurs want to find under the Christmas tree? How about an economy that encourages investment, empowers small businesses, and doesn’t penalize entrepreneurial risk? What businesses on Main Street all across this nation know is that job creation isn’t a light switch that government can turn on or off as it sees fit. Businesses need certainty, momentum, and the clarity of what it will cost them to pursue the American Dream.

The longer it takes Congress to resolve the looming fiscal cliff, the worse off job creators are going to be in 2013. The fact is creating jobs is a risky business. It’s not for the faint of heart or for those who want the easy way. This is a lesson I learned well as a small business owner myself. You need three things to succeed as a job creator: vision, courage, and investment. The first two are prerequisites for the entrepreneurially-minded, but the third of which is perhaps the most important of the three, is far from guaranteed. Every big business was once a small business, and before that it was simply a good idea. Without investment, business plans languish and good ideas perish.

If we go over the fiscal cliff and taxes skyrocket for working families, small businesses, and entrepreneurs, whatever momentum our economy has now could be completely stalled. Small businesses have noticed the risks, and aren’t confident in our elected leaders, who don’t seem to understand that always waiting until the very last moment to resolve very real crises is not the way to work.

According to the National Federation of Independent Business, the Small Business Optimism Index has dropped 5.6 points in November, taking the index down to 87.5, which is one of the lowest survey readings. Many say that the elections and Hurricane Sandy have everything to do with these numbers but the reality is small business owners are scared. Nearly half of owners feel as though 2013 will be a worse year for business than 2012. This winter may not be as cold as it normally is, but job creators are frozen in their tracks. At this point, there is not much to be done in the private sector. This is extremely damaging–if entrepreneurs and small business owners aren’t doing what they have the capability of doing employment seekers won’t have much luck and Americans will continue to feel the ripple effects of this vicious cycle of high unemployment rates.

It is my sincere hope that the politicians in Washington, on both sides of the aisle, will stop with the year-end antics and come together in a bipartisan way to enact progrowth policy that will empower entrepreneurs, encourage working families and small businesses and will renew the vitality of the American Dream. That would make this a Merry Christmas indeed.