Mr. Trump has an opportunity to connect to Main Street with a sympathetic cabinet. An opportunity that all early indications suggest will be missed.
Main Street small business owners warned of a Donald Trump presidency and the potential impact the election results could have on their businesses in the months and days leading up to the election. They expressed concern over his attacks on women, immigrants, refugees, the LGBTQ community, and People of Color, as well as his short-sided policies on immigration, taxes, wages, and health care that could damage their bottom line.
Now, in the aftermath of the election, small business owners are facing a fear that may prove larger than Donald Trump himself–his cabinet appointments. Those tasked with shaping policy on behalf of the political outsider could wield more power and take on more responsibility than we’ve seen in previous administrations.
“What we’ve heard so far about the transition and potential cabinet appointees make us very nervous about the future Trump Administration's plans to aggressively go after the gains we have made in the last eight years for small businesses and our communities,” said Amanda Ballantyne, Main Street Alliance National Director. “In addition, Trump’s hate-fueled rhetoric that we've seen on the campaign trail causes concern over the types of actions he’ll pursue against many in our communities, including immigrants, Muslims, women, and People of Color.”
President Trump plans to surround himself with conservative elites, private-sector CEOs and investors with little experience working with or advocating on behalf of small business owners.
For Department of Homeland Security, Trump is eyeing David Clarke, the conservative Milwaukee Sheriff who has cost his state more than $400,000 for lawsuits filed against him over his handling of federal immigration and customs enforcement issues. He would, almost certainly, echo his new boss’s sentiments about our communities’ immigrant population. Immigrants, in particular, are more than twice as likely to start businesses than the US-born population, have generated over $775 billion and employ one out of every ten American workers. Will Trump’s cabinet appointees think it’s “good business” to deport these economic drivers?
To head our Nation’s Environmental Protection Agency Trump has pegged Myron Ebell, a known denier of climate change, who would likely act to remove regulatory safeguards that protect our environment and the communities in which we do business.
“Common sense environmental regulations provide the regulatory certainty small businesses need to invest, helping our economy and expanding access to living-wage jobs across the country,” said Paul Heroux, a retired painter in Orlando, Florida and a member of the Main Street Alliance National Action Committee. “We can’t trust a climate denier to run the agency tasked with protecting our natural resources. and he’s called for pulling us out of the Paris Agreement, the most significant international agreement to combat climate change to date. As a small business owner, I care about the health of my employees, as well as the community that has helped to support my business. We can’t ensure the health of our communities by tasking someone with a no grasp of the implications or causes of climate change with protecting our environment.”
One of Trump’s top contenders for Secretary of Health and Human Services is Florida Governor Rick Scott. Governor Scott stepped down as CEO of Columbia/HCA in 1997 after a federal agents opened an investigation into the company over alleged Medicare and Medicaid fraud. The company settled two resulting lawsuits in 2000 and 2002 for more than $1.7 billion. If that doesn’t pan out the campaign has identified Dr. Ben Carson and Rich Bagger, a pharmaceutical executive and top campaign fundraiser. None appear equipped or willing to fix or replace “Obamacare,” a cornerstone of the work of the Main Street Alliance and a measure our members have advocated for since 2007.
“Before anybody talks about repealing the Affordable Care Act, they need to fully explain the replacement,” said Kelly Conklin, owner of Foley-Waite Woodworking in New Jersey and Main Street Alliance Executive Committee Member. “The reckless mishandling of the health care sector would have negative impacts on every sector of our economy and will undoubtedly create economic consequences will negatively the very people that elected this Administration. The potential impact on Main Street could be devastating--this is not something that should be trifled with by a cabinet member with a history of obstruction or close ties to the healthcare industry.”
“Over the last 7 years, small businesses like mine have had the opportunity to expand our investment in our community by creating more economy-boosting jobs,” said Jim Houser, co-owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Oregon and Main Street Alliance Executive Committee Member. “We’ve seen the positive impact that this has had in our communities and local economies by increasing the customer base. The ACA has played a critical role by controlling health care premiums, allowing our business to provide quality and affordable healthcare to all of our employees. Turning the department of Health and Human Services over to a pharmaceutical executive or primary opponent to the ACA doesn’t serve the interests of small business owners."
Candidate Trump appeared out of touch and disinterested with the wellbeing of the small business community throughout his year on the campaign trail so it is hard to expect anything different out of a President Trump. In his cabinet appointments, he has an opportunity to connect to Main Street with a sympathetic cabinet. An opportunity that all early indications suggest will be missed.