In 1980, Ronald Reagan asked American voters the simple question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” That simple, straightforward question crystallized the debate and resulted in a win for the former California Governor who went on to become an icon of fiscal conservatism.

CNNMoney recently asked the same question of six small business owners with various political leanings. Without exception, the Republicans, Democrats and Independents who participated in the survey responded that indeed they are doing better.  But five of the six claimed the Obama Administration and Congress deserve little, if any credit for their successes.

In December of 2008, Sidney Brodsky, owner of Phoenix-based James Gerard Foods was unable to give Christmas bonuses to his 40 employees. Instead of looking for government solutions, Brodsky contracted with a local business coach to find new ways to make his business more efficient and competitive. Today, his business is thriving. He’s added 11 new employees to his payroll and all 51 will receive Christmas bonuses this year.  According to Brodsky, “The government did not have that much to do with it. I don’t see any policy they put in place that specifically helped us or our local economy.”

Even small business owners who expected to be helped by federal stimulus spending were disappointed. Susan Silberisen is the president of Phoenix-based information technology consulting firm BestIT. Although she initially thought the 2009 Recovery Act would help her business, she soon found out that Uncle Sam’s help came with too many strings attached, in the form or onerous documentation requirements.

Silberisen says, “I’d love to say that some of the restructuring money made its way to us, but we didn’t see a dime of that.”

Of the six participants in the CNNMoney survey, only one credited the federal government with directly helping her business.  Co-owner of Bloodshot Records, Nan Warshaw, credits President Obama, and the $6,000 tax credit she received under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, for helping to keep her Chicago-based independent recording company afloat.

Warshaw said, “I give him credit for turning the economy around. It’s not something that can be turned around easily.”


Jose Pagliery. “Businesses are recovering, but Washington didn’t help” May 17, 2012

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