Race to the Top

Ask not what the presidential candidates can do for you--ask what they can do for your business. We look at the issues shaping President Bush's and Senator Kerry's entrepreneurial agendas.

In recent months, many of the barbs traded between 2004 presidential candidates Sen. John F. Kerry and President George W. Bush have been about foreign affairs. The campaigns have sparred over the rationale for the Iraq war, each man's military service and other divisive foreign topics.

But polls show that for most Americans, the war is a secondary issue compared to the economy. For small companies, this is even truer. During the first half of Bush's term, the economy entered a prolonged slowdown, seriously hurting entrepreneurs who didn't have the capital to survive. Some complained the White House wasn't helping smaller companies pull themselves up; others believed the Bush administration's macroeconomic policies, including its tax cuts and regulatory rollback, were providing a broad stimulus for smaller firms. Indeed, in recent months, job growth has been stronger. And The Conference Board, a research group, reported that consumer confidence was at its highest in two years as of June.

Now entrepreneurs are faced with a choice. Bush believes his broader macroeconomic policies have steered the economy into safe waters and will ultimately benefit entrepreneurial companies. Kerry, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, believes the president has largely ignored entrepreneurs, in favor of large companies, and that the economy remains weak. Kerry proposes a raft of specific, targeted initiatives focused on small business.

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This article was originally published in the September 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Race to the Top.

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