Small Business Owners: Top Concern is Poor Sales. Blanche Lincoln: Top Concern is Regulations.

Ben Somberg

Nov. 22, 2011

Former Senator Blanche Lincoln, currently heading an anti-regulatory campaign called “Small Businesses for Sensible Regulation,” appeared on CNBC on Friday to make her case. Lincoln’s been busy trying to use different iterations of a debunked SBA report claiming astronomical costs for regulations. This time she skipped that piece, but offered this take (at 3:15):

This is the single most important issue to small businesses. It’s the biggest threat. The compliance with government regulations that don’t make sense, that cost ‘em money, and keep ‘em from creating jobs is the biggest problem they’ve got.

But even the staunchly right-wing, anti-regulatory National Federation of Independent Businesses, which proudly sponsors the campaign Lincoln heads, finds otherwise in their own surveys of their members (business owners that represent a share – but not exactly the full spectrum – of the small business sector). NFIB’s latest survey has “poor sales” topping the list of its members’ concerns, at 26 percent, with “govt regs & red tape” below it at 19 percent (page 20).

Other polling has found lower numbers than 19 percent. Small Business Majority commissioned Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research to poll small business owners this summer, and found:

Economic uncertainty and rising costs are hurting small business more than taxes and regulation: Despite rhetoric that regulation and taxes are the primary obstacles for small businesses, only 13% of owners believe regulation is the biggest problem, and only 23% report that taxes are a problem. In contrast, nearly half (46%) believe their small business is hurt by economic uncertainty and 43% suffer from rising costs of doing business.

(Note: the poll asked respondents to name “one or two” top problems facing their business, thus the combined totals going over 100%. See page 5 of the poll results for the full list of concerns identified by small business owners; regulations placed sixth in the list).

McClatchy canvassed small business owners in August, and found:

None of the business owners complained about regulation in their particular industries, and most seemed to welcome it. Some pointed to the lack of regulation in mortgage lending as a principal cause of the financial crisis that brought about the Great Recession of 2007-09 and its grim aftermath.

It’s hard to know whether Blanche Lincoln simply doesn’t believe NFIB’s members when they say poor sales are their biggest worry, or whether she just thinks she knows better. But the simple truth is that Lincoln and the NFIB are not actually focusing on the top concern of most small businesses.

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