Political Uncertainty Puts Freeze on Small Businesses

by Gary Fields
The Wall Street Journal
October 27, 2009

W. Michael Brown has scaled back hiring plans in his Virginia auto-parts stores. Carl Redman halted an expansion project at his Oregon contracting business. Bill Hammack is preparing layoffs at his road-construction company in Georgia.

The economy remains unsteady 22 months after the recession began, with banks restricting credit and consumers hunkering down. For these small businesses, and many others across the country, there’s an additional dark cloud: uncertainty created by Washington’s bid to reorganize a wide swath of the U.S. economy.

The economic contraction is of course the prime force driving companies to lay off workers. But a health-care overhaul grinding through Congress could bring unknown new obligations to insure employees. Bush-era tax cuts are set to end next year, and their fate is unclear. Legislation aimed at tackling climate change might raise businesses’ energy costs. Meanwhile, a bill aimed at increasing transportation spending is stalled.

Many companies say they have responded by freezing hiring, cutting benefits and delaying expansion plans. With at least 60% of job growth historically coming out of the small-business sector, according to the government’s Small Business Administration, that kind of inertia could impede an economic recovery.

Already, 7.2 million jobs have been lost during the recession, and forecasts show little or no job growth expected for the rest of the year.

Continues at WSJ.

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