This year the economy has been a hot topic for the election, more so than any other presidential election with the exception of 1932 in the midst of the Great depression that ruined the image and promises of incumbent President Herbert Hoover.
Jobs and businesses join the cloud, tracked by media, of the most commonly used words in the presidential debates.
It’s not exactly news that small business owners tend to lean Romney but the pro-Obama small business owner isn’t such an extinct species as most would have you think.
Senior UK student, Ratul Ahmed has more business experience than most others his age studying it as a career. His family has been buying, renovating, running, and selling hotels since he can remember.
“Growing up it was a very hands on experience and that’s why I saw how the business world works, how guest interactions operate, how customer service operates, how you handle a large entity, how you handle employees and everything—I saw that very early on,” said Ahmed.
For the past few months, he’s had the controlling interest of a Quality Inn in Cave City, Kentucky. The majority of his revenue comes from tourists visiting Mammoth Cave. Managing nine employees and making $10,000-15,000 on the most optimal month, he considers himself the average small business owner. Although he may be younger than most owners, he stresses that he still has all the typical responsibilities.
“It’s as much as you would imagine, I have to obviously do all the management in terms of hiring employees, front desk, house keeping, maintenance. You have to make sure you do all the customer service in dealing with guests, you know dealing with complaints dealing with any issues with rooms, you deal with the franchise because it is a franchise so you make sure your payments are on time and dealing with your superiors in the region.”
Business is not exactly going up for Ahmed. The economic hardships happening across the U.S reflect in his profits.
“Small businesses don’t make heavy income as much as it is—they are able to operate. It can more or less be self sufficient but that’s with a ton of work put into it.”
When asked why would he put that much energy into a business that doesn’t generate much profits, Ahmed says that it’s not the direct profits from customers that serves as the gold pot.
“If you are thinking of profits and losses, it’s not running the property that makes you a profit, it’s owning it. People make money by buying and selling properties kind of like turning houses—I do it because I enjoy it, I enjoy business, I enjoy every aspect of guest interaction—customer interaction.”
Ahmed’s business makes up part of the larger 30 million small enterprises in the U.S. Politics plays a huge role in how he can run his business. Policies that would help businesses wouldn’t necessarily be the best news for a small business owner. Ahmed recognizes that he’s part of the minority in leaning Obama as a small business owner but says that not everyone understands the consequences of the candidates’ policies.
“Yeah there are some aspects to Obama’s policy that the struggling small business owner wouldn’t be a fan of, for example, in terms of providing benefits to employees which I’m a fan of but at the same time you’re not always able, some months you don’t have the income or the capital to do that. But as a small business owner, at the same time over the last four years, I think Obama has passed something like 18 tax cuts bills for small business owners so that’s really helped out in terms of our tax returns.”
Ahmed says there is a disconnect between public perception and reality when it comes to the definition of a small business owner.
“If you are a large business owner, if you’re in corporate then you heavily lean toward Romney because of his policy, just because of conservative policy but as a small business owner, Obama’s been more or less fantastic—for me personally—in terms of how I interact with the federal government.”
Ahmed also agrees with the Obama administration principle of taxing by the income class.
“I stick to my principles that if you’re blessed enough to make a certain income, you have a certain obligation to others and I’m not saying that the government should force you to give charity but at the same time I don’t think that it’s fair that if—let’s say I made a million dollars a year, I would be okay with paying more taxes than the person that made 50-60 thousand dollars a year and was struggling or even less, you can get by with 50-60.”
Obama’s tax bracket policy has issued fury across the GOP. Many small business owners have reacted with fear and anger, stating that the higher tax rate would stop growth within the company to keep their income level to under the $250,000 bracket. Ahmed says that he understands the policy.
“ I think it’s fair. I think it makes sense that If I was extremely wealthy then I should give back more to my country financially then someone who isn’t as blessed as I was.”
Ahmed admits that he isn’t just a straight Obama supporter. As policies come into effect increasing employee benefits, he struggles more and more but he said that doesn’t stop his personal beliefs.
“It’s a tough compromise to make in terms of what’s good for your business and then what my personal principles are. But, overall though, the pros outweigh the cons for the Obama administration toward small business because he has been very friendly to small business and I appreciate that.”
Ahmed stresses that he doesn’t hate Romney but he has much more to think about than just the business aspect when picking a president.
“Personally as a progressive, Romney is actually the better of the Republican candidates. [However] I’m a fan of universal healthcare, my family—we don’t make enough money to afford healthcare so the ACA is a fantastic bill for us. What Obama did for Medicaid gave my brother and sister health insurance again. We normally have to pay out of pocket whenever we take hospital visits which you can imagine we don’t take our regular yearly check-ups or yearly dental check-ups say every six months or something because we can’t afford it. But under the Republican platform we wouldn’t have that. I know a lot of my policies are dependent on what’s greater for the country but I also have to think about what’s good for me and my family personally. The democratic platform, although I disagree with a lot of the stances, I support healthcare, I support women’s rights.”
Ahmed says that the main reason why he just does not lean for Romney is because he doesn’t think his plan will work.
“I’ve looked at his budget, his method to balance the budget and I also looked at Paul Ryan’s budget plan that he proposed about a year or two ago and both of those basically spends money but doesn’t plan to make up for it in any way. And so that doesn’t make sense to me and so I feel like that money will probably come from the people a.k.a taxes a.k.a the middle class, the lower class because they haven’t said they will not repeal those tax credits that the middle class has right now, if you make less than $250,000 so I imagine that’s what’s gonna happen. And under the Romney presidency I don’t want that because I’m already trying to count every dollar and penny as it is, I can’t afford to have even a few hundred dollars ripped out from under income because it’s hard for business right now.”
Ahmed thinks there is still room for improvement and that the economy isn’t recovering fast enough for him to possibly keep his business afloat.
“Left and right, friends of mine, colleagues of mine, are declaring bankruptcy—it’s ridiculous. It’s still hard for every business owner because we are still recovering and so we don’t get impacted until the larger community becomes impacted. I don’t know what’s going to happen to my property in this coming winter. Tourism is dead right now; no one is traveling because no one has the money to travel right now. And so, I don’t know if I’m going to have the business within a year. I might have to sell it, I might have to—if I can sell it, which it’s awful trying to sell things right now because it’s a buyer’s market but no one’s buying. That’s a problem, I might have to declare bankruptcy or just absolve the property and give it back to the bank.”
The economy is most definitely the biggest theme to this election. Both candidates have targeted the average Joe as well as the small business owner. Americans can’t tell if they are still in a recession or if fingers can be placed on the current administration. With Tuesday’s upcoming election, we’ll be able to tell by the numbers just how split the citizens are from their definition of progress.
Click here to find out if we’re still in a recession or not.
Click here to find a comparison between Obama and Romney’s healthcare plans.
Click here for small business tax myths.
Finally, be sure to listen to the full interview with Ratul Ahmed.