The War on Small Business: How the Government Used the Pandemic to Crush Small Business
By Carol Roth
Reviewed by Chris Wendel
Any experienced entrepreneur would agree that running a business is one of the most challenging endeavors a person can take on. The time, risk, and effort needed to sustain is difficult enough. Add in the recent pandemic and mandated measures and it’s no surprise that many small businesses have struggled and failed. Carol Roth is a business analyst, media personality, and author of the book, “The War on Small Business.” Roth addresses the inequities of relief for small businesses compared to their larger counterparts, emphasizing a broad failure of government to help the small businesses that employ half of the U.S. workforce.
Roth establishes early in the book her belief that the U.S. government has a huge bias against smaller businesses, with the deck stacked against them prior to the pandemic. She describes how our “Central Planning” of government creates polices and laws that purposely disadvantage Main Street businesses. Roth points out the flaws of the federal government’s COVID relief programs, devised with the idea that the pandemic would last a few short weeks. Roth calls out specifically the federal Payment Protection Program (PPP), which initially rolled out money mostly to larger companies, as a major miss.
This pre-existing bias against small businesses was magnified once the pandemic took hold. Roth underscores the negative impacts of mandated COVID shutdowns on small businesses, describing the discriminating ways some businesses had to shut down while others remained open. Many of her examples reveal the lack of logic and politicized ways these choices were made, to the detriment of smaller operations. At the same time, Roth disregards immediate health concerns that went into these decisions. She also rails on the expense and execution of COVID business relief without pondering what would have happened to small business owners if federal, state, and local programs relief programs were never implemented.
“The War on Small Business” does well describing changes made within the U.S. Federal Reserve over the past few years, with its operations becoming more political and influential. Roth criticizes both Democrat and Republican sides of the isle, stressing how government in most every form is detrimental to small business. The lobbying influence Amazon has in Washington D.C. is also well profiled. There are missed opportunities, though. For example, the book overlooks the Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan program that deployed long-term, low interest loans to over 3.85 million small businesses. Roth doesn’t note later rounds of forgivable PPP funds that were deployed to smaller operations after the SBA adjusted its strategy. Mission-based lenders that continuously leverage government funding to assist underserved and single owner businesses are not mentioned.
Although she presents overwhelming information on the adverse impact of the U.S. government’s COVID small businesses response, Roth’s predominant theory of a “central government” that disregards America’s small businesses is not well vetted and eventually wears thin. Many agree that our government should have a limited role in the business sector. Most small business owners would agree that the influence and cronyism of large corporations is politically intertwined with policies and programs that favor the big boys. Overall, “The War on Small Business” fails to show balanced examples of how federal funds do effectively reach small businesses.
With a promising opening, “The War on Small Business” spends a lot of time reinforcing its premise. Roth would have been better served to dig deeper and recognize public programs that have lasting impacts. She’s correct when stating that pandemic relief to smaller businesses was not well executed at first, and it’s likely that our financial systems are skewed towards larger corporate entities. Unfortunately, with too much time spent on its reoccurring theme to remove business from any government assistance, “The War on Small Business” fails to recognize during good and bad times the economic policies that work well.
Chris Wendel works for Northern Initiatives, a Community Development Financial institution (CDFI) based in Marquette, Mich. Northern Initiatives provides money and know-how to businesses throughout Michigan. Wendel lives and works in Traverse City and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org