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capitol buildingI am excellent at screwing up my business. I sell to customers who can't pay, hire people who don't work and rely on vendors who don't deliver. I purchase outdated technology, say the wrong things to the wrong people and I'm terrible at making plans. But somehow and despite my best efforts, my company continues to be profitable.Of course, we could be more profitable if I didn't keep making so many mistakes. And I certainly don't need any more help in that department. But the problem is my business, like most small businesses, is vulnerable to potential mistakes that could be made this year in Washington. Mistakes that could really screw things up. A few come immediately to mind.

Mistake #1: Gingrich becomes the Republican nominee. Please don't misunderstand. I really like Newt Gingrich. He's the smartest, most politically experienced presidential candidate we've had since Joe Biden. Just kidding on that one. Newt's a thinker, a debater and a political savant. Sure, he's a little chubby. And a "newt" is a kind of salamander, isn't it? I'm not worried. A couple of turns on the treadmill and a bomb or two dropped near Tehran and even Putin will show a little respect.

Newt is very pro-business. But that won't do me any good. Because if he becomes the Republican candidate he'll have a hell of a time getting elected. He's too polarizing. He has less business know-how than Romney. He has too much personal and political baggage. He's going to be spending a lot of time defending his past actions, positions he took or things he said more than twenty years ago. When Nancy Pelosi says she "investigated" him and has "dirt" I believe her. Trust me, Pelosi hates guys like these which means that...

...with Gingrich as his opponent, Obama will draw the left back to his camp. Alec Baldwin and Barbara Streisand will be re-energized. Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen will write him campaign songs. Look, I think Obama's a good man too. I voted for him. But I would never vote for him again. He's proven himself to be way too big-government and way too anti-business. He wants to raise taxes and continue to spend on stimulus programs. As far as running the government and managing the world's largest economy he's shown himself to be inexperienced. The economy, the markets, the business environment and my small business in particular would suffer if he's re-elected.

Mistake #2: With the retirement of Barney Frank, Maxine Waters is appointed to chair the House Financial Services Committee. This one gives me, my fellow small business owners, and anyone to the right of Michael Moore more chills than all three Paranormal Activitys. Here is a woman that is barely qualified to operate an ATM, let alone be in charge of one of the most powerful committees in Congress. Hasn't enough damage been done to our banking system with the Dodd-Frank bill already? Yes, bankers made mistakes. And yes, an appropriate level of oversight is acceptable. But this is a woman who told the tea party to "go to hell" (nice!) and famously once said "this liberal would be about socializing ... uh, umm ... Would be about, basically, taking over, and the government running all of your companies." Yikes.

Small businesses really do not want to hear that. Particularly from someone in charge of a powerful finance committee. We need business advocates in Congress. And so does the financial services community. Badly. These people fund our working capital. They invest in startups. They fuel the stock market's growth, which provides collateral, savings, retirement and college funds for our children. Barney Frank at times, was too much of a friend to the banks, Freddie and Fannie. But having Maxine Waters replace Barney Frank as the head of the House Financial Services Committee is like replacing the Eagles' Andy Reid with Sheldon Cooper and Howard Wolowitz. Bazinga! That maybe that isn't such a bad idea after all.

Mistake #3: The Supreme Court declares that healthcare reform is constitutional. You'd think that I would be in favor of healthcare reform. And in a way I am. I do believe there should be coverage for everyone. I do believe that pre-existing conditions and preventative care should be covered. I do believe parents of teenage children should be entitled to psychiatric counseling, or the right to commit homicide...whichever is most economical. I do believe that people have a right to work, and employers have the right to hire, wherever and with whomever we'd like, regardless of their health situation. And I've got less than 50 employees so I'm really not affected by this legislation at all, right?

Well I am. Like many small business owners we don't think that our government has a complete picture. I don't believe that our government has thought through all the costs. I don't believe that the new state exchanges, due to be in place by 2014 are going to offer significantly cheaper health insurance. I don't believe the government has the ability to enforce individual mandate penalties imposed on millions of people that probably can't afford to pay anyway. I don't believe that insurance companies will lower their prices across the board because millions of new customers are suddenly entering the market. I don't believe that this legislation, like any legislation, will survive political maneuvering which will grant favors to special favors to interest groups and campaign contributors. And I don't believe CBS is renewing 2 Broke Girls. That show is terrible.

Healthcare reform is too big and too much. It's an enormous uncertainty for the business community and the risks of downside are much higher than the risks of upside. Healthcare reform legislation, if implemented in full, will likely create more uncertainty and added costs to the very companies who buy my products and services. I need my customers to have the flexibility and the funds and the willingness to take risks when they invest in the technology we sell. The costs of healthcare reform legislation significantly impacts their ability to do all three.

Mistake #4: The Fed eases even more. In my opinion, the Fed and the Treasury did a great job saving our financial system after the great bank blowout. I don't care about all those "secret deals" they did either - I probably wouldn't have understood them anyway. But ever since the government gave the Fed permission to rescue banks and cut deals with investment firms in order to keep the economy from imploding back in 2007-2008 it's like they let a cougar out of its cage. And I'm not talking about one of those ladies looking for younger men on the internet either.

This cougar is Ben Bernanke. And (like those ladies on the internet) he's all about creating stimulus...except a different kind. But when exactly was the Fed mandated to "stimulate" the economy? I don't see it in their mandate. Whether we agree with it or not, interest rates are historically low. Inflation is historically low. Seems like they're doing their job, right?

Not according to Ben Bernanke. He's still not satisfied. And this could screw up my small business. The money supply and the Fed's balance sheet are at all time highs right now. I don't like it when they discuss more monetary easing schemes like QE 3 or "Operation Twist." Sure, I'm in favor of their plans to be more open about inflation and interest targets.

Other than Wall Street speculators, most business owners prefer fewer surprises rather than more. But my concern is that any more easing just increases the opportunity for sudden spurts of inflation and higher rates of interest to combat it. And the last things small business owners need in 2012 is higher inflation and higher interest rates.

Mistake #5: More stimulus is approved. The business community watches with unease as our deficits and national debt grows. We have stood by as stimulus plan after stimulus plan did nothing more than increase these deficits along with unemployment. Lucky for me I have little hair left. Otherwise, I would be like so many of my small business clients and friends who pull on theirs and wonder how our government can continue to propose more spending when our budget continues to be more and more out of balance.

This is not something a small business owner would do. This is not something that any experienced business manager would consider. For God's sake, even Greek government bonds would start looking pretty good. More stimulus would further exasperate the potential for inflation as our currency loses its value. For the business community, the downsides of stimulus are higher than the upsides.

Look, I can do a great job screwing up my business on my own. I don't need any help this year. Especially from Washington.

Gene Marks
Gene Marks, a columnist, author, and business owner, writes monthly online management and technology columns for Forbes and Business Week and a bi-weekly column that appears nationally in American City Business Journals. His books include Gene\'s books include the #1 Amazon Small Business Best Seller The Streetwise Small Business Book of Lists (Adams Media), The Small Business Desk Reference (Alpha Books, 2004), Outfoxing The Small Business Owner - Crafty Techniques for Creating a Profitable Relationship (Adams Media, 2005) and The Complete Idiot\'s Guide To Successful Outsourcing (Alpha Books, 2005).

He owns and operates the Marks Group PC, a ten-person firm that provides technology and consulting services to small and medium-sized businesses. Before starting the Marks Group, Marks spent nine years in the entrepreneurial services arm of the international consulting firm KPMG in
Philadelphia where he was a senior manager.
Last modified on Sunday, 02 June 2013
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