THE CHOICE: A Look At Pres. Obama And Mitt Romney's Plans To Help Small Businesses (VIDEO) | Roland Martin Reports

THE CHOICE: A Look At Pres. Obama And Mitt Romney’s Plans To Help Small Businesses (VIDEO)

Small Business has always been crucial to the development of wealth in the Black community. Because African-Americans were often denied the right to work for other companies, or practice as professionals in White America, we had to start our own businesses: restaurants, funeral homes, insurance companies, law firms, barbershops and beauty parlors. One of the first small business owners to hit it big was Madame C. J. Walker, America’s first Black, female millionaire.

Now, we have a number of African-American multimillionaires and billionaires who started small and got big — very big: names you’re familiar with, like Bob and Sheila Johnson from BET, Oprah, Earl Graves of Black Enterprise, and John H. Johnson of “Ebony” and “Jet,” as well as the two largest, Black-owned businesses in America, David Steward of World Wide Technology, with annual revenues exceeding $4 billion; and Janice Bryant Howroyd of Act 1 Group, with annual revenues of nearly $2 billion.

Which brings us to our special election segment, “The Choice.” This week, we focus on small business. In “The Choice,” we look at the programs and proposals of President Obama and Mitt Romney on issues of importance to all Americans, but most important for us here on “Washington Watch,” African-Americans.

MR. MARTIN:  Welcome back.

Small Business has always been crucial to the development of wealth in the Black community.  Because African-Americans were often denied the right to work for other companies, or practice as professionals in White America, we had to start our own businesses:  restaurants, funeral homes, insurance companies, law firms, barbershops and beauty parlors.  One of the first small ba- — small business owners to hit it big was Madame C. J.  Walker, America’s first Black, female millionaire.

Now, we have a number of African-American multimillionaires and billionaires who started small and got big – very big:  names you’re familiar with, like Bob and Sheila Johnson from BET, Oprah, Earl Graves of Black Enterprise, and John H. Johnson of “Ebony” and “Jet,” as well as two – the two largest, Black-owned businesses in America, David Steward of World Wide Technology, with annual revenues exceeding $4 billion; and Janice Bryant Howroyd of Act 1 Group, with annual revenues of nearly $2 billion.

Which brings us to our special election segment, “The Choice.”  This week, we focus on small business.  In “The Choice,” we look at the programs and proposals of President Obama and Mitt Romney on issues of importance to all Americans, but most important for us here on “Washington Watch,” African-Americans.

According to the latest Census Bureau figures, lack-owned businesses total 1,922,000.  They have sales of $137 billion, 920,000 employees and a payroll of $24 billion.

Now, both candidates talk a lot about small business, and here is what they propose.  Mitt Romney want to lower taxes for corporations – which, of course, can also be small businesses – and he wants to keep the Bush tax cuts in place, even for people earning over $250,000 a year.  This matters because most small business owners take the profits from their business directly into their personal income.

He also wants to cut back on regulations that he says hinder small business startups and growth.  He would repeal Dodd-Frank, the Wall Street reform law, which he says discourages lending to small businesses.  Romney wants to amend the Sarbanes-Oxley financial reporting law to cut down on government paperwork for small businesses.

Now, according to “The Washington Post,” Romney’s budget plans would also result in a 5 percent cut to the Small Business Administration.  So, he’s saying exte- — expand small businesses, but he will cut the SBA, which helps small businesses.

Now, President Barack Obama also wants to lower taxes on corporations and keep the Bush tax cuts in place for people earning under $250,000 a year which includes 97 percent of all small business owners.

Now, on regulation, the President issued an executive order to review existing regulations, with an eye toward getting rid of those that hinder job creation.  And he had the Small Business Administration, the SBA, reduce the paperwork required to lend money to small businesses.  Now, speaking of the SBA, the President nearly doubled the budget and elevated the head of the SBA to cabinet-level rank.

To see what these men would mean for small business, we are joined by Julie Cunningham, president and CEO of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials; and Ron Busby, president of the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc.

Folks, welcome to the show.

MS. JULIE CUNNINGHAM:  Thank you.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  So, we have heard both candidates talk, in these debates, on the campaign trail, about small businesses and how they are important.  How would you assess the two – your assessment of President Obama as well as Mitt Romney?

MS. CUNNINGHAM:  Well, I would go by track record.  When Governor Romney was in Massachusetts, small business startups – when he – when he entered office, small business startups were pretty robust.  When he left, they had decreased by 10 percent.  He also – every – the – the small business startups were lagging the national average.

By contrast, President Obama has created opportunities for small business loans – 150,000 new loans during his – his – his – his last four years and incentives – 18 tax cuts, including things for hiring new workers, purchasing equipment – computers.  And so I – I would have to go by track record.

MR. MARTIN:  I want to talk about those tax cuts, because 18 different times they have been extended.  And so – for Ron – have there – any – anything new that has come down the pipeline, as opposed to those extensions, during the last three or four years?

MR. RON BUSBY:  Good questions.  I think, in reference to our members – and understand that most African-American businesses don’t fit into the same mold as what Governor Romney sees them as.  The typical White business is about a million dollars in annualized revenue.  So, when you’re talking about tax cuts for them, it’s different than the African-American firms.

MR. MARTIN:  So, White-owned firms and f- — small business, a million.  For African-Americans, what’s the number?

MR. BUSBY:  For our members – and we represent about 240,000 of the 2 million businesses out there in the country – our members are around $250,000 in annualized revenue.  But statistics show that the average annualized revenue for African-Americans is about $100,000.  So, we look at the tax cuts differently because for most of us, we really look at it from “I’m a self-employed entrepreneur.”  So, the tax ramifications are going to be different for someone that’s looking at $100,000 in annualized revenue versus those that are looking at a million dollar in[?] – [crosstalk].

MR. MARTIN:  So, when the President talks about changing the tax – in terms of what – what we tax, when he’s say[s], look, for those small businesses that are doing $250,000 or less, this is not going to affect them; but Mitt Romney says, well, these small business owners – when they file their taxes, it is going to affect them – that – that seems to be what you’re – exactly what you’re talking about.

MR. BUSBY:  That’s exactly what I’m talking about.

MR. MARTIN:  Julie, can I ask you this here?  Healthcare is an issue we often hear about.  We hear Mitt Romney say small business owners are scared to death of the Affordable Care Act.  What are you hearing from your members?

MS. CUNNINGHAM:  Only 3 percent of the – of the small businesses will be – will have increased taxes from – as a result of Obamacare.  Our members are – are – in COMTO, the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials, are happy about the fact that they will be able to afford healthcare for their employees.  Right now, it’s – it’s – it’s a burden.

MR. MARTIN:  See – see, this is what I don’t understand, Ron.  We hear, oh, Small business owners can’t stand the Affordable Care Act – how it’s going to impact them.  And what I keep saying is, “Which small businesses are you talking to?”

MS. CUNNINGHAM:  Exactly.

MR. BUSBY:  Exactly.

MS. CUNNINGHAM:  Exactly.

MR. BUSBY:  The average employees that we have for African-Americans really won’t be affected, ’cause it really doesn’t adjust you – or, address you until you have 50 or more employees.  [The] average African-American business has less than two employees, so we’re not going to feel it there.

But if you look at the growth over small businesses over the last few years, it’s been women.  Women have been the fastest-growing business sector in the country.  And if you even dissect it more, and you drill down, the fastest-growing sector inside of that is African-American women.  So, we look at it and say for a business owner that’s a woman, she has other concerns.  She wants to make sure that she has healthcare for herself, her family, her children, because in most cases she’s the breadwinner.

Also, for African-American you- — young people, they want to be carried on their parents’ insurance much longer because they’re still looking for that first job, or that job that is going to give them full healthcare.  So, for our communities it means more than just the small business owner, because we really feel like as we fix the country from the middle out, it will definitely affect all of our membership.

MR. MARTIN:  Julie moderated a panel – Congressional Black Caucus –

MS. CUNNINGHAM:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — that your group was sponsoring, and we talked about contracts and things a- — things along those lines.  How would you assess the two candidates when it comes to ensuring those MWBE programs are strengthened, are improved?  And have you seen targeted efforts from the Administration that [have] been able to break down barriers for Black-owned businesses and small businesses – trying to get those contracts?

MS. CUNNINGHAM:  Absolutely.  COMTO worked very successfully with the United States Department of Transportation, and – and the best-case model is the Missouri Department of Transportation.  They had a $535 million highway expansion,

I-64, and Missouri DOT used that project to increase the number of women and minorities on – in the heavy highway construction jobs.  And they exceeded their federal goals for – for small business participation.  So, it has become known as a national model.  We worked very closely with the DOT.

We also have another project, in Denver.  And this is a world of transportation.  It’s called the WIN program, which is [the] Workforce Innovative [sic – “Initiative”] Now program, which is run by the Denver Regional Transportation District.  It is 21 thou- — 21 miles of rail, 10,000 construction jobs, 21,000 parking places.  It’s a long-term project, and the WIN program is to get more minorities into the construction trades.  So, the project is long enough and big enough, that these individuals will now not just become apprentices, but – but journeymen and women, and the – the small businesses have much more opportunity.  There – it’s a ve- — very vibrant, robust small business community –

MR. MARTIN:  Well, again –

MS. CUNNINGHAM:  — in Denver.

MR. MARTIN:  — one of the things that really jumps out at us is [that] small business owners – peop- — I think they are being used as a political football on the campaign trail, and the argument that I keep making to other – to national media is, “You might want to expand who you talk to.”  I keep seeing folks talk to farmers and talk to folks who own other kind[s] of businesses.  Very rarely do I see them talking to Black-owned businesses, talking about the – the plans of both.

Julie and Ronald, we certainly appreciate it.  Thanks a bunch.

MS. CUNNINGHAM:  Thank you.

MR. BUSBY:  Thank you.