Small Business Majority, a national research and advocacy group,
joined U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan on Thursday for a conference call with reporters
imploring lawmakers to reach an agreement on the so-called fiscal cliff.
Only 11 days remain before more than $500 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax hikes take effect Jan. 1, if lawmakers fail to reach a broad deficit-reduction deal before then.
"We don't have a crystal ball, and this has been like the tide being pulled by the moon," said Mary Huttlinger, Ohio outreach manager for Small Business Majority. "The end result, though, is something has to be done. It's a matter of who will call whose bluff, and we would encourage [lawmakers] to do what's right."
For Ryan, of Niles, D-17th, a good deal is anything balanced that favors both small business and the middle class more than anything else. He said small businesses employ about half of all private-sector employees in the U.S.
"It has been small business in Northeast Ohio that's helped Youngstown and Akron pull themselves out of a decade-long struggle," Ryan said. "We have to do what's in our best interest to support small business."
Initially, President Barack Obama said that any deal would have to include an expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000, but later offered up a deal that would raise revenues by $1.2 trillion over the next decade while keeping Bush-era tax rates for any household with earnings below $400,000.
Now, the showdown finds Obama reluctant to budge from those concessions, as Speaker John Boehner pushes for a scaled-down plan to limit tax increases to yearly incomes of $1 million and up, regardless of Senate opposition and a veto threat from the president.
The impasse also includes considerable disagreement on the rate at which to tax dividends and capital gains, with unrest concerning military cuts, cost-of-living adjustments for federal benefit programs such as Social Security and estate taxes pulling both sides in opposite directions as well.
"We're recovering, but the growth is too slow, public policy at the state and national level is really not helping," said Cleveland-based economist George Zeller. "The feds are talking about decreasing spending, and that's the crux of this whole cliff thing; it's the worst timing -- we need to spend more to increase the growth rate."
Business attitudes and projections are grim as a "result, but the economic reality was not entirely rosy to begin with, Zeller said. He added that fiscal-cliff negotiations have been "counterproductive to begin with" given the fact that a recovery began to shape up only in 2011.
In a November survey of 500 small-business owners, conducted by Small Business Majority, 52 percent were in favor of letting tax cuts expire for those earning more than $250,000 per year. By a ratio of 5 to 4, owners believed that the most important job for Congress and the president in 2013 is a plan to create jobs rather than a plan to reduce the deficit.
Ryan also noted it will be increasingly important to avoid cutting funds for science, research and education so the state and national economy remains competitive.
He cited the gains in advanced and additive manufacturing in Youngstown as evidence of small businesses coming together to raise the profile of the city.
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