Ask an Expert: Comparing the candidates, continued

— -- Q: Will Barack Obama really raise taxes on my business? Are John McCain's tax cuts just for the rich? Who is telling the truth here? — Larry

(Part 2 of 2. Read Part 1)

A: To say I received a little feedback on last week's column would be an understatement.

Some of it was reasoned and some was not. Several McCain supporters wrote to tell me "Obama is going to raise our taxes!" But when I asked for proof, given Obama's pledge to raise taxes on only the top 5 percent of wage earners, I never heard much back.

The only ones who did offer a factual argument were the folks from Sure Payroll who informed me of a survey they conducted which found that more than 60% of small business owners surveyed like McCain better. That's an impressive number.

In any case, the point of that column, and this one, is to look beyond labels and see which candidate might really be best for small business. When I began this exercise, I didn't know which candidate would look better. Last week, Obama came out on top. This week. .. he does again.

(I should point out that before I get skewered once more that I have in fact voted for John McCain before.)

So who is right? Am I? I don't know, but I sure think so, and below you will read why. But whatever the case, let's hope whoever wins knows what they are doing. We are in a heap of trouble, amigos.

The economy:It is no secret that one of the main culprits in the economic calamity we are witnessing is a lack of regulation. Given that, I don't see how someone who calls himself "fundamentally a deregulator" can be the right choice right now.

Yes, I know my small business brethren hate regulations. Duly noted.

Combined with an admission that economic matters are not his strong suit, and even though Obama's lack of experience is no doubt troubling, events this week leave no option but to conclude that McCain, at least on this issue, is lacking.

(It is also not insignificant that President Bush' plan to partially privatize Social Security by investing retirement funds in the stock market, supported by McCain, did not pass.)

The Small Business Administration:Either candidate will be an improvement over the current administration, which has slashed the SBA budget over the past eight years (by about 50%). Funds for SBA loans have also been severely curtailed, and in this banking environment, that is especially troubling.

Senator Obama wants to restore and expand SBA loans, and is also calling for an increase in public-private business incubator funding, as well as strengthening minority and women-owned business assistance programs.

Significantly, McCain has said nothing about restoring the SBA budget or loan program.

Health care:I'm not sure there is an issue more important to small business owners than this one. Someone has to fix this fix we are in.

The crux of the McCain plan is that he would un-hook health insurance from employment by giving families a $5,000 refundable tax credit to purchase their own health insurance. He also supports guaranteed access for those with pre-existing conditions. There is no doubt that many small businesses like the idea of not being responsible for their employees' health care.

But will his plan lower premiums? That is the question.

Obama is offering a new tax credit of up to 50% of the premiums to employers who offer "quality health insurance." He is also calling for a new national health exchange that is supposed to somehow offer low-cost, high-quality health care plans. Sounds great, if dreamy.

Minimum wage:Both candidates voted for a bill that increased the minimum wage and offered tax breaks for business.

Intangibles:I have admired John McCain, and as I said, even voted for him before. But he is different in this campaign. Obama is far from perfect; a cool customer who verges on aloof. In the end, despite their personal flaws and strengths, what I looked at here is which candidate would most likely best help small business.

I couldn't help but conclude that John McCain is the big business guy, and if that's your bag, he's your man. But Barack Obama is the small business guy, and since that is my bag, at least on this issue, he's the man.

Today's tip:Don't look at what they say, look at what they do.

Ask an Expert appears Mondays. You can e-mail Steve Strauss at: And you can click here to see previous columns. Steven D. Strauss is a lawyer, author and speaker who specializes in small business and entrepreneurship. His latest book is The Small Business Bible. You can sign up for his free newsletter, "Small Business Success Secrets!" at his website —