Politicians live in fear of a so-called October surprise that affects the outcome of an election. So far, North Korea's nuclear test and the Mark Foley congressional page scandal have surprised the Republicans, while Democrats worry that Karl Rove will pull an October surprise. Let's see – Usama bin Laden suddenly shows up at Guantanamo Bay, and the CIA divulges that he is the love child of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid?
Well, let's set aside these bad-news political surprises and make time for the kind of good-news October surprises that favor small business owners. Here are some dreamed-up ideas that might actually be good policy for the 25 million small businesses that are the backbone of this nation:
The War Dividend Surprise
President Bush declares the Iraq war is over and that the $2 billion a week being spent on the war will now be used to set up a national health care plan, geared especially to small business owners. The health care plan will be most generous for small business employees who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those small businesses that already carry health insurance for employees will be given substantial tax breaks for any employee or owner who makes more than $100 million a year.
The Backdating Surprise
Attorney Gen. Alberto Gonzalez decrees that the hundreds of million of dollars that CEOs of large companies have made through backdating their stock options illegally will be used to bring small companies public. NASDAQ and the NYSE will cooperate to create a new market for fledgling small businesses. Once the public small company's stock has reached $2 a share, it can choose to be listed on one of the established stock exchanges.
The Fuel Surprise
The Department of Energy announces that any profits made from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will be used to offset the cost of fuel for small businesses. The IRS declares an increase in the business mileage deduction to 55 cents a mile – and this deduction will be available only to small businesses. Companies that use hybrid vehicles that get more than 40 miles a gallon will receive an extra 5 cents a mile, bringing the deduction to 60 cents a mile.
The Accounting Surprise
Vice President Dick Cheney declares a preemptive strike against accounting errors and omissions at small businesses in red states. "We're going to provide an accountant or a bookkeeper for every small business in these states that are loyal to our cause," says Cheney. "We won't waste resources either. We will make it a work-release program for white-collar criminals." Blue-state small businesses will get an IRS auditor on site during the month of December. And a select few of these owners will be invited on the vice president's next hunting trip.
The DeLayed Surprise
In honor of former Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Congress creates a new special lobby to protect the interests of all small businesses. Headed by Jack Abramoff's go-to guy, Grover Norquist, the lobby will specialize in reducing taxes to 0 percent for all U.S. small businesses. Any small business owners who are not interested in footing the bill for this super-lobby will find that their businesses have been relocated to the Northern Mariana Islands, where they will enjoy special federal subsidies.
The Ex-Im Surprise
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice announces that she is leaving office to set up an export-import business with China, because she has more luck getting Chinese officials to return her calls than Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Her new business, called Condi-minimum Sales Inc., will supply cheap goods to U.S. small businesses – even cheaper than the goods Chinese companies manufacture for Wal-Mart.
The Recruiting Surprise
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announces a new recruiting program for the Armed Services: all small business owners receive a $50,000 bonus for each 18- to 30-year-old healthy citizen they recruit for service in the Navy, Army, Marines or National Guard. "We've been trying to find a way to make do with the Army we've got, but it's not working out so well three years into the war," says Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. He points out that this new recruiting program should save in the long run by utilizing the services of hardworking small business owners, enabling the Pentagon to cut out overhead for recruitment offices. Any small business that does not support the recruiting effort will be required to open a business branch in Iraq, Afghanistan or South Korea.
Got your own idea for an October surprise that would help out small business owners? Humorous or serious, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will try to publish it before the midterm elections on November 7. Please type "October surprise" as your subject line.
Susan C. Walker, who also writes a personal finance column for FOXNews.com, works for Elliott Wave International, a market forecasting and technical analysis company. A graduate of Stanford University, she has been an associate editor with Inc. magazine, a newspaper business editor, an investor relations executive for a real estate investment trust and a speechwriter for the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.