Once again, America is shaken by disaster.
As the devastation from Hurricane Katrina continues to be revealed, we grieve for our fellow citizens and their immeasurable loss. And at the same time, we reach deep into our national resolve and instinctively calculate the ways to assist those in need.
Small-business owners, whose irrepressible optimism and entrepreneurial spirit have made this nation the economic powerhouse that it is today, will once again step to the forefront of relief efforts to aid others who are unable to help themselves in the face of widespread destruction.
As Congress returns to work after a summer recess, the debates that have already begun to emerge in the news will take center stage on Capitol Hill. While it is the role of lawmakers to address grave issues that have arisen from this disaster, let us hope that the political atmosphere will not be further poisoned by the “blame games” that appear all too often following events of this nature.
Small-business owners expect congressional leaders to view the damage this storm has inflicted on our national economy in a constructive light. Now is the time to link arms and help restore the livelihoods and homes of those affected, but it should also be a time to avoid enacting measures that will harm one of the key sectors of the economy , small business , that has the potential to stabilize that economy more quickly than any government mandate can.
Hurricane Katrina has robbed the nation of hundreds of thousands of jobs. It will take a long time to make those places of employment viable again.
Unfortunately there are some members of Congress who, historically, have ignored the fragile nature of our economy and insist on pushing ill-conceived ideas. Hiking the minimum wage is an example.
A proposal to raise the federally mandated minimum wage to $7.25 an hour was a bad idea even before the storm ravaged the Gulf Coast of the United States. Enactment of a higher minimum wage at a time when so many are suffering the loss of employment can only ensure that their plight will worsen and the survivability of millions of small businesses will be threatened.
When terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001, a labor union leader observed that the attack was about more than the financial loss suffered by businesses; it was also that countless jobs had been destroyed. The union members he represented needed jobs, not higher wages; to raise the minimum wage would make their re-employment even more difficult. History has proven that government manipulation of the starting wage has failed to help those who are in the direst need of employment.
In dealing with the aftermath brought by Hurricane Katrina, America will, once again, help its people rebuild their lives. The greatest contribution Congress can make is to ensure that the laws it passes address the long-term needs of citizens. Helping small businesses continue to create jobs is one of the best ways to accomplish that goal.
Jack Faris is the president of the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s largest small-business advocacy group.