Author: Kent Hoover
Publication: Kansas City Business Journal
Are you afraid to speak out about federal policies because you fear retribution from the government?
A new survey found that 61 percent of business owners with fewer than 100 employees are concerned they may be harassed by the Internal Revenue Service or other agencies if they criticize the government. The survey was conducted June 10-13 by the Job Creators Alliance, an organization of business leaders who are concerned that government policies are stifling entrepreneurship.
The fact that most small businesses fear retribution for exercising their First Amendment rights is chilling — if true.
The problem is, this survey worded the question in such a way as to encourage a yes answer. It referred to “a scandal in Washington right now involving the IRS’ practice of targeting certain groups and individuals because of their political beliefs.” Then it asked small business owners how concerned they were about being harassed if they speak out.
There’s undisputed evidence the IRS singled out groups with “Tea Party” or “Patriots” in their name for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. That is a scandal.
But there’s no evidence, just suspicions raised by some Republican donors, that the IRS picked on particular businesses or business owners because of their political beliefs. So that’s not a scandal, at least not at this point.
Trust in government is so low that it’s no wonder that many small business owners fear it. The Jobs Creators Alliance poll found that 66 percent of small business owners think that Washington has become more hostile to free enterprise in recent years.
But when it comes to retribution for speaking out, critics of President Barack Obama and his policies probably have more to fear from his political allies than from government bureaucrats. The Jobs Creators Alliance cites organized campaigns against owners of Denny’s and Five Guys franchises who voiced concerns about the negative impact health care reform would have on their businesses. Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, who helped start the Job Creators Alliance, thinks that Obamacare supporters may have “crossed a line” by organizing campaigns against small businesses that dared to speak out against the law.
This is National Small Business Week — a time when politicians fall all over themselves singing the praises of small businesses. It’d be nice if they wouldn’t sic their dogs on them when business owners have the audacity of disagreeing with them.