But business experience isn't all these guys are about. They're politicians, so judge them by their political records.
Gore spent 16 years in the House of Representatives and the Senate. His ratings by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business were never very high. He voted with the Chamber an average of 30.4 percent and with NFIB an average of 32.1 percent during his congressional terms. Still, he supported such small-business efforts as 1992's Small Business Research and Development Enhancement Act while in Congress.
Gore's campaign, unsurprisingly, is running hard on the economic success of the Clinton-Gore years, and Gore cites the expansion of the SBA loan program to $14 billion in guarantees in the budget for the 2000 fiscal year. At the same time, he reiterates the economic policy pursued by the administration from 1993 forward: Reduce the budget deficit to lower the federal government's impact on financial markets so more money is available for investment. It's worth noting that credit availability topped many lists of entrepreneurs' concerns four and eight years ago. Today, it's rarely mentioned.
Meanwhile, Bush has been busy improving the Texas business climate. He has cut taxes and approved tort reform that has lowered entrepreneurs' insurance costs. "[Bush and Texas legislators] eliminated 170,000 small businesses from having to file franchise tax returns," notes David Pinkus, president of Small Business United of Texas.
Pinkus notes the fact that Bush tends to treat small and large businesses even-handedly. In other words, entrepreneurs will get a fair shake but shouldn't expect special treatment in a Bush administration. As governor, he opposed legislation that would have create a small-business advocate because he worried it would increase the overall size of state government.
But politicians' past efforts only partially sway voters. Elections are about the future. This guide seeks to sort through candidates' claims and counter-claims about the five issues that most reflect entrepreneurial concerns, according to several sources, including a March 2000 poll conducted by TNS Intersearch of 1,122 entrepreneurs for American Express Small Business Services (for more information, see "It Matters To Us").
Those results are combined with opinions from Washington, DC, small-business lobbying organizations: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Small Business United (NSBU), National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE), National Federation of Independent Business, and Small Business Survival Committee.
Entrepreneurs, however, tend to make up their own minds. To help you do just that, each candidate's proposed policies for some of the most pressing concerns follow: