What's Bugging Small-Business Owners?

| Fri Sep. 2, 2011 2:03 AM EDT

Is Barack Obama's relentless love affair with regulatory overkill choking the life out of America's small business owners? McClatchy's Kevin Hall decided to go out and ask them:

McClatchy reached out to owners of small businesses, many of them mom-and-pop operations, to find out whether they indeed were being choked by regulation, whether uncertainty over taxes affected their hiring plans and whether the health care overhaul was helping or hurting their business.

Their response was surprising. None of the business owners complained about regulation in their particular industries, and most seemed to welcome it.....Rip Daniels [] owns four businesses in Gulfport, Miss.: real estate ventures, a radio station and a boutique hotel/bistro. He said his problem wasn't regulation. "Absolutely, positively not."

....For many small businesses, their chief problem is an old one: navigating the bureaucracy of the Small Business Administration to secure government-backed loans....Other small firms say their problem is simply a lack of customers.

"I think the business climate is so shaky that I would not want to undergo any expansion or outlay capital," said Andy Weingarten, who owns Almar Auto Repair in Charlotte. He's thinking about hiring one more mechanic. Added Barry Grant, the regional president of Meritage Homes Corp., in California, "It starts with jobs....There's an awful lot of people sitting on the fence; they're waiting for a sign."

Well, I guess these responses might be surprising if you subsist on a steady diet of Fox News and Chamber of Commerce press releases. For the rest of us, not so much. The small business owners that Hall talked to complained about the banking system, workers' compensation, the Small Business Administration, insurance, and competition from the internet. And they talked about a lack of customers.

In other words, all the usual stuff that's been around forever, plus a lack of demand because the economy is in lousy shape. Maybe we should consider doing something about this?