Donald Trump is tearing up the GOP playbook and sparking chaos within his own party — in turn, handing Democrats the opportunity to sway Republican voters and to court the business sector.
“After the worst recession in 80 years, we fought our way back,” President Obama said in his prime time speech at the Democratic National Convention, uncharacteristically appealing directly to the business set. “We’ve seen deficits come down, 401(k)s recover, an auto industry set new records, unemployment reach eight-year lows and our businesses create 15 million new jobs.”
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton vowed in her nomination acceptance speech to “build an economy where everyone who wants a good paying job can get one.” The 2016 Democratic Party platform caters to business and job creation, too. “We will cut the red tape that holds back small businesses and entrepreneurs. We will open up access to credit because we know that small businesses are some of the best job creators in our country. We will provide tax relief and tax simplification.”
But among our 2,200 members -- 80 percent are small businesses and startups -- we have heard countless complaints that Washington has ranged from unhelpful to harmful over the course of Obama’s two terms in office — the result of government overregulation.
Here are five policies that have hurt entrepreneurs and small businesses since Obama entered the White House:
1. Startups and entrepreneurs no longer have access to the best global talent.
Every foreign-born graduate with an advanced STEM degree is associated with an average of 2.6 jobs for American workers. But our current immigration laws restrict how foreign-born, U.S.-educated science, technology, engineering and math graduates can work in the U.S. For the fourth consecutive year, the U.S. maxed out its H-1B visa cap over five business days. This year, the U.S. received more than 233,000applications for just 85,000 H-1B visas.
In the past seven years, the closest Congress has come to immigration reform was legislation during Obama’s first term to boost the number of available H-1Bs, but the bill was voted down by Democrats. And there’s no sign of relief if the Democrats hold on to the White House in November.
In a recent interview, Clinton displayed rare — and troubling — political candor when she said the crux of immigration reform for her and for the Democratic Party was, and is, a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants in this country illegally.
Clinton has effectively told the tech industry it shouldn’t hold its breath waiting for a much-needed increase in the number of H-1B high-skilled visas — despite the fact that the tech industry is a key player in the coalition advocating for immigration reform.
2. Employee health care costs have skyrocketed. Thanks to ObamaCare, startups with more than 50 employees must now provide health care benefits or pay a penalty of $2,000 per full-time employee.
Employers already providing health care face higher costs and are penalized for giving better benefits or cash for employees to purchase health care. And employees have higher deductibles, reduced benefits and fewer choices in doctors.
3. Interns and recent grads face new barriers to employment. Two new rules governing internship and overtime pay are having a chilling effect on business. Students were once able to gain experience, and employers were able to test-drive potential employees, through internships.
But this has been more difficult since Obama took office. The Obama administration almost completely banned unpaid interns, except in government. And paid interns must receive health care benefits if they stay more than a few months.
And a new Department of Labor rule that will go into effect later this year says every salaried employee making less than $47,476 per year must be paid overtime for extra work. This rule more than doubles the threshold for overtime eligibility, and means fewer graduates in STEM fields will join startups, since every new tech business asks its existing employees to do what it takes to get the app, service or new product launched before the competition.
Together, these two rules translate into costly barriers for startups. They also translate to fewer opportunities for recent graduates and deny them the opportunity to do what so many in past generations did; namely, graduate and begin a career by working hard to immerse themselves in the essentials of their chosen profession.
4. Patent trolls’ meritless lawsuits are financially crippling entrepreneurs. In the past seven years, the legalized extortion of small businesses has soared. Today, it drains $1.5 billion from the U.S. economy every week.
To be fair, most Democrats, including the president, supported legislation that would have curbed this disgusting extortion racket. But Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid responded to the fat-cat trial lawyers and killed the proposal.
Every dollar spent by an entrepreneur or small business paying off patent trolls is a dollar that cannot be spent to hire someone or get a new product or service into consumers’ hands.
5. Thousands of new rules and regulations create new costs for small businesses. Almost every entrepreneur and small-business person laments the new federal rules they are forced to deal with, understand and pay lawyers to help them navigate.
The Obama administration is responsible for six of the top seven all-time highest total number of pages of rules and regulations published in a given year in the Federal Register. Obama has added an average of 78,785 pages annually, up more than 2,000 a year from the 76,783 pages issued annually by his predecessor.
While all these new rules are well-intentioned and have a purpose, they are killing smaller businesses, such as community banks, independent health care providers, manufacturers and service providers. More, these rules give bigger companies a competitive advantage, because they can afford the lawyers necessary to stay compliant with federal law.
Democrats say they like jobs, but for some, their actions at the federal level are hurting employers, especially startups and smaller businesses. If Democrats truly believed that those businesses create jobs, and acted accordingly, then our nation would be more competitive globally, and we could get closer to the healthy economic growth and full employment necessary to allow government to be funded to do its job.
Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,200 consumer technology companies, and author of the New York Times best-selling books, "Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World’s Most Successful Businesses" and "The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream." His views are his own. Connect with him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro.