Barron’s ‘Economic Beat’ writer highlights small business owners’ reaction to Trump

Gene Epstein of Barron’s probes the small business sector’s early reaction to the Trump presidency.

Restored to life? The 325,000-member National Federation of Independent Business reported on Tuesday that its Index of Small Business Optimism jumped to 105.9 in the first quarter, an 11-point leap from 94.9 in the fourth quarter.

As the chart below shows, the NFIB’s quarterly Index of Small Business Optimism over its 43-year history has averaged 100 or higher through every sustained economic expansion but one. That one exception has been the expansion over the past 7½ years under President Barack Obama, and it may be no coincidence that this has been the slowest expansion on record. The sudden vaulting to 105.9 therefore signals a restoration of sorts, and a clear thumbs-up by small business to the unexpected rise of Donald Trump and to the Republican hold on Congress. Whether that thumbs-up will stay firmly in place remains to be seen. …

… ON THURSDAY, NFIB Director of Research Holly Wade delivered testimony before a committee of Congress on the “State of the Small Business Economy.” Wade spoke of “three main concerns of small business owners.”

One is taxes, both their burden and complexity. Another is regulation—the “second-most severe problem for small-business owners after the cost of health insurance.” A third is the rising cost of health insurance, which small-business owners “rank…as their most severe issue in operating their business out of 75 potential issues.” Unless the new administration makes tangible gains in addressing these concerns, the optimism index will probably slip below 100 again.

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Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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