Small Firms Not Thrilled by Clinton's Philosophy but Some Fault Bush for Disengagement on Domestic Policy

Article excerpt

STRATEGISTS at the Clinton-Gore campaign headquarters are very proud to call Bill Clinton a pro-business Democrat, a label that has long been a contradiction in terms for presidential politics.

Gene Sperling, the campaign's economic policy director, runs down a list of new endorsements from Fortune 500 leaders and from high-tech business leaders who support the Clinton-Gore economic strategy.

But Governor Clinton has yet to win over smaller United States firms, which account for well over half of US employment and output. Moreover, these small companies have been responsible for the lion's share of job creation over the last decade. Wary of being targeted by more taxes and regulations, these businesses are uneasy about what a Democratic administration would bring.

William Dunkelberg, chief economist of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), has no doubt that, under a Clinton administration, businesses will be hit with a host of new government-mandated costs that eat into their bottom lines. Eighty percent of NFIB's 600,000 members have less than 40 employees. "Absolutely, there will be more regulations if Clinton wins," says Mr. Dunkelberg, who is also dean of Temple University Business School.

If Clinton occupies the White House, "Congress will be heaping on the mandates - from health care to day care, to elderly care, to care for the environment," he asserts.

The critical difference between Clinton and President Bush, Dunkelberg says, is that "Bush has used the veto 30-odd times, and Clinton won't."

All the costs that businesses incur from government regulations will more than offset Clinton's proposed business tax breaks that are designed to create jobs, he adds.

"I call it `sneak a tax on business,"' says conservative John Cregan, president of the US Business and Industrial Council. "Because government can't afford to pay for social costs, due to its $400 billion deficit, it tries to make business foot the bill."

Mr. Cregan says his members are unhappy with both candidates. "They feel burned by Bush," who signaled both the Environmental Protection Agency and Congress that his administration "was a kinder and gentler time for regulations," says Cregan. He applauds Clinton's "very hands-on approach" in promoting US competitiveness.

And while he differs with much of it, Cregan is also impressed with the amount of work Clinton has put into "his detailed economic plan."

By contrast, he says, Bush is "so disengaged, he obviously doesn't care about domestic policy. …

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