3 Topics of Political Debate that Could Affect Small Business

Earlier this week more than 84 million Americans tuned in to watch the first presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, making it the most watched debate in the history of the medium. The following day pundits, social media influencers, and average citizens gathered around the water cooler each with their own opinions of who won, how moderator Lester Holt performed, and whether on-the-fly fact-checking might have been a good idea. Seemingly left behind in all of these discussions were the actual topics not only discussed in this debate but also the positions both candidates have established on the campaign trail. 

As we’ve mentioned, one of the most reliable subsets of voters is small business owners. Because of this you often hear small businesses touted by candidates even as larger corporations (oil, Wall Street, etc.) are attacked. So which of the candidate’s current positions could affect entrepreneurs and the self-employed come January? Here are three examples:

Trade/overseas labor

“Make America Great Again” — Donald Trump’s memorable if not controversial tagline has been everywhere since his bid for the highest office first began. As part of that sentiment the businessman has stated on multiple occasions that he’s tired of losing jobs to foreign countries. In turn, to stop businesses like Carrier and Nabisco from heading for the border, Trump has suggested raising tariffs so that companies who move their operations to Mexico or overseas will have to pay more when shipping their goods back to the U.S.

When presented with this idea some might think that this would only impact businesses who move out of the country, which would exclude many small businesses. However, if your product is manufactured overseas or you import items from outside of the country to resell domestically, higher tariffs could mean higher landing costs and smaller margins for you. While it’s unclear what the increase in tariffs would be, which countries would be affected, or even if such a plan would actually pass congress, it does raise plenty of questions for entrepreneurs.

The gig economy

There are several names used to describe the revolution that’s brought us Uber and Airbnb but some of the most common are “peer to peer,” “the sharing economy,” and “the gig economy.” Admittedly there is some nuance between the three but, for the sake of political debate, they seem to be used interchangeably. And, while these services have earned many fans on both sides of the transactions, such companies have also made plenty of enemies, including some local and national politicians.

In recent months many municipalities have either passed new restrictions on ride sharing and short term rental services provided by Uber, Airbnb, and others.  Ironically one such market that banned Uber was Philadelphia, although a temporary reprieve to that law was issued during the Democratic National Convention in order to help delegates with transportation. Additionally several lawsuits currently being decided on are trying to define freelance Uber drivers as employees, which could have a major effect on the company and how they operate. Similarly, although Secretary Clinton has spoken positively about the opportunities and flexibility the sharing economy services bring to customers and workers, she has warned that, “it’s also raising hard questions about workplace protection and what a good job will look like in the future.” Needless to say this election could have major implications for the P2P/sharing/gig economy and the independent contractors that use them for their main source of employment or to earn extra income.

The Affordable Care Act

This might sound like a blast from the past as health care and specifically the Affordable Care Act were the main topic of debate in the 2010 midterms as well as in the 2012 presidential election. Still the bill remains a hot topic as the top two candidates stand on opposite sides of the issue. On the one side Donald Trump has called for a “repeal and replace” strategy for the ACA, while Secretary Clinton has expressed interest in expanding the law. 

At this point the Affordable Care Act already mandates that companies of a certain size provide group health care plans to their workers. Because of this it seems unlikely that any expansion of the law short of switching to a universal, single-payer system would create much of a change for business owners (although it is always possible that legislation could be passed requiring business owners to cover their employees’ total premium instead of just a portion). The more interesting scenario is what would happen if the bill were to be repealed and of course the question of what would replace it. With few specifics coming from Trump it’s hard to say what that might look like, but the details are definitely worth keeping an eye on.

As if there weren’t already enough to think about this November, several of the issues our presidential candidates are raising directly relate to small business, entrepreneurs, and the self-employed. Obviously how you feel about these topics will depend on your political leanings and your current and future business/employment plans. Still, with both candidates vying to win over entrepreneurs and promote small business in general, hopefully whoever our next president is will do what’s best for business.


Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded DyerNews.com in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

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