Advancing a Free Society

Subsidies to Small Business?

Thursday, December 31, 2009

President Obama, in his State of the Union Address last week, indicated that he would assist small business, particularly to encourage their hiring of additional workers. Two days later he proposed a $33 billion tax credit to small businesses that increase their hiring. I consider small and medium size business the backbone of any dynamic economy, so I sympathize with the President’s desire to encourage these businesses. However, his proposal is not a good way to do this.

Obama’s aims are laudable: to simultaneously increase employment, reduce unemployment, and encourage the expansion of small and medium sized businesses. Yet, as an employment-increasing plan, the President’s approach has many problems, and is likely to have only limited impact. This is partly because while $33 billion is a lot of money, it is less than ¼ of one percent of American GDP. Yet even a much larger sum would have a small impact on employment. One reason is that the subsidy proposal gives small business some incentive to fire some employees, and then later to replace them with unemployed workers for whom they can collect the subsidy.

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