NFIB Weekly News
Leading the News
Trump Tweets “Flake(y)” Will Oppose Tax Cuts, Urges Senate GOP Not To Disappoint Public.
The AP (11/19) reported President Trump issued “an insulting tweet” against Sen. Jeff Flake Sunday night after the lawmaker “was caught on an open microphone Friday saying the GOP is ‘toast’ if the party follows Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.” Trump tweeted, “Sen. Jeff Flake(y), who is unelectable in the Great State of Arizona (quit race, anemic polls) was caught (purposely) on ‘mike’ saying bad things about your favorite President. He’ll be a NO on tax cuts because his political career anyway is ‘toast.”’
NFIB Backs Amended House Ways And Means Tax Reform Bill. Business Climate
Bloomberg News (11/9, Niquette) reported, “Business groups applauded committee passage of the House bill to overhaul the U.S. tax code, including the National Federation of Independent Business, which reversed its initial opposition to the measure.” The NFIB “raised concerns that early provisions in the bill involving limited-liability companies and other ‘pass-through’ entities didn’t help small businesses,” but it “backed changes made in an amendment by Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady before the committee approved the bill on Thursday.” NFIB CEO Juanita Duggan was quoted saying, “We are very grateful to Chairman Brady for listening to our concerns and working with NFIB to ensure that tax reform benefits the greatest possible number of American small business owners. ... This amendment would create substantial tax relief for millions of small-business owners who were left out of the original bill.”
Small Business Optimism Stays Strong In October.
According to the NFIB’s latest Small Business Optimism Index, small business owners increasingly said last month that they expect higher sales and view the present as a favorable time to expand. NIFB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg said, “Owners became much more positive about the economic environment last month, which suggests a longer-run view. ... In the nearer term, they are more optimistic about real sales growth and improved business conditions through the end of the year.” The 103.8 October Index, an increase from the previous month’s 103 Index, continues a months-long positive streak dating to last November, following the presidential election. Four of the Index components rose, five saw a slight decline, and one was unchanged. Dunkelberg said, “We expect a pickup in auto spending as people in Texas and Florida continue to replace cars that were damaged in the hurricanes. We expect the same increase in home improvement spending, partly because of the hurricanes, but also because of the skyrocketing price of homes.”
Small Businesses Say They Are “Left Behind” In Tax Bill.
Fox Business (11/3) reported the House Republicans are pushing the tax bill “as a blueprint to boost growth for U.S. businesses both large and small, but larger corporations appeared more satisfied with the proposals than their smaller counterparts.” Fox reports that NFIB said, in a statement, “This bill leaves too many small businesses behind. We are concerned that the pass-through provision does not help most small businesses,” and notes NFIB is “unable to support the House plan in its current form.” Meanwhile, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said in a statement on Thursday “that he was encouraged by the proposal to slash the business tax rate by 15 percentage points.” Stephenson said, “Comprehensive tax reform with competitive business tax rates will ensure lasting economic growth, investment and job creation. We are very encouraged by the legislation introduced today in the U.S. House that proposes a permanent 20% corporate tax rate.”
NFIB Survey: US Small Business Job Openings At Second-Highest Level Ever
Bloomberg News (11/2, Golle) reported, “The share of US small companies with open positions in October matched the second-highest on record and more businesses said they plan to boost compensation, signs that a tight labor market could soon translate into bigger pay raises.” Survey data released Thursday by the National Federation of Independent Businesses said that “thirty-five percent of small-business owners surveyed said that they had jobs to fill, matching July as the second-highest in records to 1973.” Bloomberg added, “While wage growth in the US has been modest during the current expansion, reports of increased worker compensation remained strong in October,” and “some 21 percent of small companies said they plan to boost pay in coming months, the largest share since December 2015.”
Debate Continues Over Who Would Benefit From Tax Reform.
The New York Times (10/29, Tankersley, Subscription Publication) wrote that though Republicans “will pitch their tax bill this week as a gift to the middle class,” Democrats “will call it a Trojan horse: a windfall for big business and the rich dressed as a tax cut for workers.” Tensions over “who will benefit from the sweeping tax rewrite were on display during an hourlong meeting last week” between the President and member of the Senate Finance Committee. Democrats who attended the meeting “said that Trump agreed with every point raised on the subject of tax cuts for the middle class.” Sen. Ron Wyden said that after he told the President “that the tax bill Republicans were drafting would not deliver on his promises to the middle class and would instead benefit corporations and high earners,” the President “looked at his top economic advisers, waved his hand, and said, ‘Take care of it.’”
Fed Speeches Demonstrate Readiness To Raise Rates In December.
MarketWatch (11/17) reported that Fed watchers “gleaned two important conclusions from a flurry of public appearances by central bankers” last week: that the central bank is set to raise interest rates in December, and “that the central bankers are concerned they might not have all the tools they need to combat the next recession.” Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic “told reporters this week that he thought the shift in leadership” from Janet Yellen to Jerome Powell “was a good time to examine the central bank’s strategy.” Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester “told reporters that Fed should follow the lead of the Bank of Canada, which formally reviews its strategy and policy tool every five years.”
Reuters Analysis: NAFTA Talks Appear At Risk Of Stalemate. Small Business Marketing
Reuters (11/19, Ljunggren, Lawder) reported that talks to update the North American Free Trade Agreement “appeared to be in danger of grinding toward a stalemate amid complaints of US negotiators’ inflexibility,” sources close to the talks said Sunday. “The talks are really not going anywhere,” Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, the largest Canadian private-sector union, told reporters after meeting with Canada’s chief negotiator Sunday. “As long as the United States is taking the position they are, this is a colossal waste of time,” Dias added.
At Cabinet Meeting, Trump Touts Tax Reform.
The Washington Times (11/20, Miller) reports, “President Trump convened a Cabinet meeting Monday that he said would focus on “crucial domestic policy issues,” including the push for Congress to pass a tax reform bill.” It quotes the President saying in the meeting, “We’re going to give the American people a huge tax cut for Christmas – hopefully that will be a great big, beautiful Christmas present.” President Trump emphasized his involvement in pushing for reform as the Senate pursues its legislation, saying, “I’ll be there right in the middle of it, and we will come up with a bill that will be spectacular for growth and spectacular for the people of this country. Our tax plan will bring urgent relief to hardworking families [and] we will restore America’s competitive edge so we can bring back our jobs.” The AP (11/20) reports that President Trump “promised a tax overhaul by Christmas,” adding that his Administration would move on to healthcare, infrastructure and welfare “soon after taxes.”
Trump Visit Points To Shift On China.
The Wall Street Journal (11/19, Wei, Schlesinger, Page, Bender, Subscription Publication) reported that the Administration, which recently completed a comprehensive review of its China policy, is abandoning the longstanding practice of seeking concessions from Beijing on trade and market access during high-level meetings. As evidence, the Journal said that a month before President Trump’s visit to Beijing, Chinese officials proposed that during the visit, the two leaders unveil a plan to widen foreign firms’ access to China’s financial industry. The Administration, according to sources, turned down the offer so China made the announcement on its own after Trump’s visit.
Budget Deficit Increased By Over A Third Last Month.
Bloomberg News (11/13, McGregor) reports the monthly US budget deficit “increased by more than a third in October, highlighting concerns about proposed tax cuts that could further expand the fiscal gap.” The deficit rose to $63.2 billion last month “from $45.8 billion a year earlier, according to a Treasury Department statement released Monday.” The piece notes “some lawmakers are voicing concern about the deficit impact of proposed legislation to cut taxes that’s being debated by the House and Senate.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “estimates the administration’s tax-cut plan will accelerate economic growth, which will increase revenue and reduce the budget deficit by $1 trillion.”
Treasury Sec: “Strong Preference” Is To Implement Corporate Tax Rate Cut Next Year.
In the wake of a Washington Post report which said Senate Republicans are considering delaying corporate tax cuts, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said Tuesday that the Administration’s “strong preference” would be for the cuts to be implemented next year, Politico (11/8, Lima) reported. Bloomberg News (11/8, Mohsin) said Mnuchin “isn’t ruling out delaying the start of a corporate tax rate cut,” but emphasized, “The longer we wait, the worse it is for the economy and making companies competitive.” Mnuchin also said, “The president’s strong preference – he feels very strongly that he wants to start this right away. ... But having said that, we’ll have to look at the entire Senate package.” The Wall Street Journal (11/8, Rubin, Subscription Publication) also mentioned Mnuchin’s comments.
Upcoming Small Business Saturday Gets Wide Coverage.
Numerous outlets over the weekend provided coverage of Small Business Saturday. On its website, NBC News (11/17, Ramberg) reported Small Business Saturday is “right around the corner” on November 25, and “there has been a growing swell of support for shopping at local independent businesses on this day wedged between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.” American Express, a founding partner of Small Business Saturday, said in 2016, over 100 million Americans participated in Small Business Saturday. Over 6,700 communities have “pledged celebrate the day with events and media.” NBC News expects Small Business Saturday “to be even bigger this year” due to “marketing support from neighborhood champions, the press, and corporate partners.” NBC News also spoke with six small business experts, who offer advice to small business owners on how to “make the most of the day.”
Attorney Warns Brands To Be Proactive About FTC Rules On Influencers. Wages and Benefits
Jeff Brown, a partner attorney at the Chicago firm of Michael Best & Friedrich, posted at Ad Age (11/10) that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is poised to pounce on “both advertisers and influencers if ‘material connections’ between an influencer and any promoted product or service are not clearly and conspicuously disclosed” in posts. Brown said the FTC has sent out a series of inquiries to influencers, and said brands best take note. He advised brands to make clear influencers’ responsibilities to disclose material connections, monitor what they say, and “follow up to address questionable or improper practices.”
Businesses, Consumers Encouraged To Take Part In Small Business Saturday.
Writing in the Huffington Post (11/1), contributor Melinda Emerson highlighted things small business owners can do to improve their sales during the holiday season. Chief among these is participating in Small Business Saturday, which this year will be held on November 25. “Since 2010, small businesses all over the US have been offering discounts, bundle deals and giveaways to shoppers the Saturday after Thanksgiving. With this being the 7th year, there’s already a significant amount of marketing around this event, so participating in it is just one more way to engage customers and drive sales.” Small businesses should publicize their “Shop Small” strategy well beforehand, and partner with other small businesses.
LinkedIn Adds “Smart Reply” For Conversations, Autoplay Video Ads.
TechCrunch (10/24, Lunden) reports LinkedIn is adding “a new smart reply feature in its messaging app, which gives users prompts with different phrases to use while they are chatting to keep the conversation flowing” on desktops or mobile devices. English will launch first, with other languages to follow, TechCrunch says.
Agency CEO Picks His “Best Tools” For Social Media Marketing.
Forbes Agency Council member and contributor Jon Clark, Founder and CEO at the agency Fuze SEO, posts at Forbes (10/17) about “the best social media marketing tools the pros swear by.” Clark says that Buffer is the best for campaign management, while Sprout Social is the best for customer relationship management, Canva is best for creating visual content, Feedly is the best for content aggregation, while Bitly is the best for shortening URLs. Clark also offers pro tips for using the tools.
Strauss: Amazon Should Be Scared Of Smaller Online Retailers.
In a column for Inc. Magazine (10/21, Strauss), Steve Strauss said that although small business owners cannot compete with Amazon, “Amazon can’t compete with you either.” Strauss stressed that small business owners did not start “to become a giant behemoth” and that unlike Amazon, “People can go into your store or shop, be greeted with a smile, and have free immediate delivery. They can take their purchase home with them as soon as they leave” as opposed to a free two day delivery with Amazon. Strauss said “what small business can do, and does best, is precisely the thing Amazon cannot do, namely, give customers a positive, warm, real, physical experience. People buy from places for all sorts of reasons, price indeed being one of them, but that’s the thing – it is only one of many considerations.”
Centrist Policy Institute Calls For Tiered National Minimum Wage.
In an op-ed in the New York (NY) Times (11/17, Subscription Publication), centrist policy institute Third Way president Jonathan Cowan senior vice president Jim Kessler wrote that the national minimum wage should “be a range of national minimum wages that recognizes the differences in living cost and labor markets in a way that is both flexible and permanent.” The “average national minimum wage – that is, the minimum wage in regions of the country that experience a cost of living close to the national average – should be pegged to an objective measure that recognizes labor market realities and lifts the maximum number of people out of poverty,” Cowan and Jim Kessler explained.
Media Analyses: Officials Send Mixed Signals On Keeping ACA Mandate Repeal In Tax Bill.
OMB Director Mulvaney told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that if repealing the ACA’s individual mandate becomes an “impediment” to passing tax reform legislation, the White House is open to removing that provision from the legislation, the Washington Post (11/19, Sullivan) reported. Mulvaney said, “If we can repeal part of Obamacare as part of a tax bill and have a tax bill that is still a good tax bill, that can pass, that’s great. ... If it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can, then we are okay with taking it out.” However, he added that “he does not think it is currently an impediment,” and House and Senate negotiators would have to determine whether to include the provision in the final bill.
Maryland County Officials Increase Minimum Wage To $15 A Hour.
The AP (11/7) reported the Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour over a period of years. The bill would require large employers to adopt a $15 hourly wage by 2022 and small employers would need to adopt the higher wage by 2024.
Trump Administration Encouraging Obamacare Enrollees To Use Insurer-Paid Brokers.
The New York Times (11/11, Pear, Subscription Publication) reported the Trump Administration is encouraging Obamacare marketplace consumers to use “insurance agents and brokers who are often paid by insurers” when signing up for health coverage, after cutting funds for nonprofit groups providing similar services. Some experts are opposed to the move, warning that financial incentives from insurers may cause agents to act in ways that “may or may not be in the consumer’s best interest.” However, advocates said that they “could provide a lifeline for consumers in a confusing and troubled marketplace,” and could be better than nonprofit guides because agents are able to recommend specific health insurance plans.
U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Backs Mandatory Arbitration In ERISA Cases.
Bloomberg BNA (11/7, Wille) reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “is asking a federal appeals court to give employers the power to force disputes over employee benefits into arbitration.” In a brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Nov. 6, the Chamber backed the University of Southern California “in its attempt to move a proposed class action over the fees associated with its retirement plan into arbitration.” The brief asked the court “to rule that employment agreements with arbitration clauses – like the ones USC required its workers to sign – apply to disputes involving retirement plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.” The article added the issue is whether “arbitration clauses in employment agreements extend to ERISA claims,” noting the issue hasn’t been addressed by the Ninth Circuit before.
Ryan: GOP Weighing Repeal Of ACA Mandate As Part Of Tax Reform.
The AP (11/5, Freking) reported Speaker Ryan said yesterday “Republicans are discussing whether their tax plan should include a repeal of the Obama health law’s requirement that people have insurance coverage or face a penalty, a step pushed by President Donald Trump but seen by some GOP lawmakers as possibly imperiling a much-needed legislative victory.” The AP added that such a move “would be another shot at further undermining the Affordable Care Act after repeated failures by the GOP-led Congress to repeal and replace the law.” The Washington Post (11/5, O'Keefe) noted that appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Ryan “said that repealing the individual mandate is ‘one of the things that’s being discussed,’” and added, “We’re listening to our members about what we can do to add to this bill to make it even better.”