Mitt Romney intensified his own rhetoric on Tuesday and called President Obama's recent comments about small business "insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America."And this:
Just a word to the women entrepreneurs out there. If we become, if we become president and vice president we want to speak to you, we want to help you. Women in this country are more likely to start businesses than men. Women need our help.And this, from his convention speech:
Fourth, to assure every entrepreneur and every job creator that their investments in America will not vanish as have those in Greece, we will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget.Indeed, the GOP's whole convention revolved around "you didn't build that," although they helpfully made Pres. Barack Obama's point by morphing that into "We built it!"—exactly the point Obama was making before his comments were sliced and spliced to mean something entirely different.
So is Romney wise to focus so intensely on entrepreneurs. First of all, are there even enough entrepreneurs to give Romney a significant electoral boost? There are about a billion ways to define the word, as this article explains. They range from 27 million small businesses, to 6 million small businesses with employees, to less than two million small businesses with employees that have been around less than five years. And you can keep getting more restrictive than that if you'd like.
Put another way, is a taxi driver or chiropractor or yoga instructor an entrepreneur the same way that Steve Jobs and Sam Walton were? Of course not. So the word itself suffers from vagueness.
But let's use the more expansive definition anyway, as I assume that most self-employed people fancy themselves entrepreneurs. I could be wrong, but let's assume that for argument's sake. If you've started a business, whether it's a dentist's office, or a consultancy, or an eBay or Etsy shop, or Facebook, then you're an entrepreneur. And 27 million of them is a significant number.
Still, that's less than 10 percent of the American population, less than the 37 million African Americans in the country, or the the 50 million Latinos.
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But aside from the numbers, Romney's bigger problems with this demo is that he hasn't provided anything that would actually make their jobs easier. I'm an entrepreneur and a proud one. In addition to starting Daily Kos (which now employs 22), I also rounded up a bunch of friends to start SB Nation (now Vox Media). That company has raised tens of millions of dollars in venture capital and has nearly 200 employees.
So I can say, from personal experience, that I have never felt over-shackled by government regulation. True, I don't want to drill for natural gas in your backyard or bet your life savings in some financial ponzi scheme, I don't have to worry about poisoning you with my cooking or choking your kid with a small toy, but other than the occasional hassle like getting an extra document signed and notarized, I haven't had to sweat government interference.
On the other hand, there is one serious stumbling block to entrepreneurship—one that almost kept me from devoting my full-time attention to this site (not to mention my other company):
But take two people, both of whom independently came up with the same idea for that super duper new widget. One lives in the US, the other in Denmark. Which one gives up his/her job to start a new company? The American or the Dane? My guess is the Dane will, precisely because the Dane, unlike the American, retains a safety net. The Dane doesn't give up health insurance for herself or her family, and has more social programs she can rely on if the new business fails.Yup, there are more Danish entrepreneurs than American ones. More Canadians too. And there's no doubt that health care is a roadblock to entrepreneurship.
My wife was three months pregnant with our first son when I quit my day job and its excellent benefits plan to focus on Daily Kos full time. We didn't have a lot of cash the year after when I put our entire life savings into SB Nation. Had either effort failed, I shudder to think what might've happened. I rolled the dice and everything worked out, but it was a terrifying experience, and one that might've never happened if I was even a tiny bit less risk averse, or if my (nesting-mode) wife had been less tolerant of the risks we took.
Had we had single-payer healthcare, the decisions I made would've been no-brainers, and far less risky.
Looking at Romney's solutions for the entrepreneurs he fetishizes, nothing addresses the problems most of them face. He wants to roll back what gains we've made on health care, his tax cut plan doesn't help the vast majority of small business owners, the "government regulation" canard is just that—canard.
Thus, every time Romney talks about entrepreneurs, he basically tells the other 90+percent of the country that he's focused on someone else. And even that relatively small pool of entrepreneurs isn't hearing anything that would make them think, "Hey, this guy will help my efforts." Putting my partisan hat aside and putting on my capitalist one—there's not a single said Romney has said that would make it easier for me to keep growing my businesses.
It would be like Romney wasting time talking to Latinos, when all he's done is opposed the DREAM Act and advocated for "self-deportation."