A survey from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Small Business Outlook showed a majority of small business owners feel the national economy is "on the wrong track" and 80 percent of respondents feel the current debt and deficit situation poses some level of threat to their business.
With the U.S. House and Senate at odds in a race to solve the debt problem, President Barack Obama is pushing for answers before the Aug. 2 deadline when the debt ceiling will be reached. Ongoing problems of this nature taking place in Washington have caused reason for concern from business owners across the nation.
Jeff Watkins, as partner at White, Choate and Watkins and chair of the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs Committee, is concerned with many of the same items found in the recent survey. The topics of top priority for small business owners, according to respondents and Watkins alike, were economic uncertainty and excessive government regulation.
"Small business is affected by the economy and I think the economy is not performing like small businesses want because there's so much uncertainty out there. ... Until the economy gets jump started, we're going to have problems in our small business community," Watkins said. "Regardless of whether you are Democrat or Republican, I think you can agree that if you want to see small business thrive in this community, in this state and then nationwide, we've got too much regulation and too much government."
Rob Adkerson, co-owner of Eagle Systems and an active member of the local Tea Party movement, agreed with survey results pointing to uncertainty as a cause for small business concern. Debt and deficit debates exacerbate the situation, said Adkerson, who, like Watkins, favors a balanced budget amendment for federal government.
"The reason the debt and deficit and the spending affects small businesses is because the more they spend, the more they'll have to tax," Adkerson said. "So, if they're spending out of control, then businesses look and know that taxes are coming down the pike and it stagnates growth.
"When businesses make moves in the direction of growth in terms of hiring, they look long term, they look over the next five years ... Fears with uncertainty of tax increases stifle growth."
The U.S. House of Representatives passed Tuesday the so-called Cap, Cut and Balance Act, calling for a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget plus a $2.4 trillion deficit ceiling increase. In the Senate, however, a bipartisan group known as the "Gang of Six" have been working on a plan which, according to the Associated Press, could result in an overall tax increase totaling more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years. Through a restructuring of the tax code and a reduction in tax breaks coupled with spending cuts, the plan aims to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade.
U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., released a statement Tuesday following the passage of the House's Cap, Cut and Balance Act commending lawmakers for passage of the bill.
"I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011, and I applaud both my Republican and Democrat colleagues in the House for supporting this legislation to fundamentally change our government's spending habits. By the end of this year, our national debt will grow larger than our entire economy. The actions set forth in the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act will help to stabilize our economy by enacting long-term spending cuts without raising taxes on over-burdened and hardworking Americans," Gingrey stated.
With the deadline fast approaching, the Senate will decide upon these opposing arguments and move them along toward a solution. For now, with uncertainty hindering the confidence to invest, Adkerson sees a dark time for small businesses. Comparing the political scene to a marriage during tough financial times, he feels the stress of fiscal strain is causing a political divide.
"Just like in a marriage, when the money is tight, the marriage gets stressed. The same thing is going on in this country -- everyone is hurting, the money is not there and everyone is on edge," Adkerson said. "It's a terrible atmosphere, it's a terrible time for anyone to even consider growing a business because everyone is scared to death of what they're going to do."