I was recently reminded of an old story about Ohio’s legendary aviators, Wilbur and Orville Wright.
The Wright Brothers hailed from just north of my district in Dayton and embodied the spirit of American entrepreneurship through their risk-taking, innovation and perseverance. When people asked them what made their machine fly, the Wright Brothers didn’t get into a physics lesson. They cut straight to the heart of the matter and said simply, “the airplane stays up because it doesn’t have the time to fall.”
Over a century later in the face of the rough headwinds of high taxation and overregulation our entrepreneurs say the same thing. They stay up because they don’t have the time to fall. And thank goodness they do. With nearly half of the workforce going to work every day at a small business, and about 7 out of every 10 new jobs created by a small business, virtually everything Washington does to small businesses can have a major impact on millions of families.
As Chairman of the House Small Business Committee, I am 100 percent committed to making sure the voices of small businesses are heard in Washington. It’s remarkable how our entrepreneurs can continue to create jobs and grow the economy when—on an almost daily basis—Washington seems intent on throwing up new obstacles that threaten to impede their success. That’s what my Committee is trying to change.
In December, our new Speaker, Paul Ryan, laid out an agenda for a “Confident America.” He said what we all know: restoring confidence in the American economy is key. Nowhere is confidence a bigger factor than with entrepreneurship. Investors need confidence that the risk they’re about to take is worthwhile. Innovators need confidence that their dreams really are within reach. Entrepreneurs need confidence that they can get off the ground and stay off the ground without the federal government holding them back. We have already made some meaningful progress in this effort.
Last year, led by the Small Business Committee, Congress passed the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act to waive the upfront fees for the Small Business Administration’s 7(a) express loans for veterans and their spouses. We also passed the RISE After Disaster Act to help small businesses ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, and victims of future natural disasters, get the help they need from the SBA (the Small Business Administration). We also passed key provisions in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act to help small firms compete for contracts with the Department of Defense. This benefits entrepreneurs and their employees, but it also benefits the taxpayers footing the bill, making sure they get more bang for their buck.
Another area that we’ve emphasized to promote entrepreneurship is access to capital. This is obviously critical for an entrepreneur to get his or her business off the ground in the first place, and it’s critical to expand and create more jobs in an economy that still has much room for growth. Towards this goal, our Committee has done everything within its power to fully fund the 7(a) loan program. We’ve also done everything possible to open new doors for economic development through local Certified Development Companies, or CDCs, and supported the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Program.
We are also committed to exercising serious oversight of the SBA to ensure that America’s small businesses are being served efficiently and effectively. I’ve talked to a lot of entrepreneurs over the years who have told me what a daunting, paperwork-intensive effort it can be to obtain a loan through the SBA. Although, we are determined to make dealing with the SBA a more customer-friendly experience, we’re not there yet. As I told the SBA Administrator when she was testifying before our Committee last month, entrepreneurs and taxpayers have every right to expect that agencies charged with helping small businesses treat entrepreneurs as valued customers. She has assured me that they will continue to improve. I intend to hold her to that.
Looking toward the next few years, the most important step Congress can take to empower America’s entrepreneurs is to fundamentally reform our tax code. At the end of last year, we made permanent the increases for Section 179 expensing, the Research and Development tax credit, and we expanded bonus depreciation through 2019. That’s a good start. But simplifying the tax code, broadening the base, and lowering marginal rates, would be a huge boost to America’s entrepreneurs. Even though we may not be able to accomplish this in 2016, Congress should be working on it now.
American entrepreneurship has never been easy. Every moment in our history has had its own set of challenges. We must always remember that it’s not Washington policymakers who move us forward, it’s our entrepreneurs.