Ask any metal fabricating business owner or manager what the government can do to help them out, and the response is pretty typical: "Stop trying to help."
The last attempt that comes to mind is President Barack Obama's offer of a tax incentive to hire people. Business owners found it laughable. They were supposed to bring on new workers without new business coming in? That certainly sounds like the federal government's approach to running a business.
Honestly, it's understandable why so many business owners and managers lash out at any government program. It's just a pain in the butt to keep up with the paperwork required by government mandates, and most companies simply don't have the time to investigate the many government agencies and grants that might be of help.
That's why they have a simple response when asked what the government can do to help: Lower the tax burden. That's not exactly the response federal, state, and local government officials can entertain seriously as they now face revenue shortfalls that they haven't had to deal with in years, but at least the message from the business community is consistent and easy to understand. Politicians can't claim they are getting mixed messages.
They can, however, claim they are hard of hearing. For example, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a five-year, $86 billion reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act (H.R. 5116) earlier this week. The bill, which garnered support from 17 Republicans, helps to increase funding to technology programs at the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, home of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, which has done a lot of good for many small to medium-sized manufacturing businesses. It also creates a $100 million Innovative Technology Federal Loan Guarantee fund to help those same-sized manufacturers access capital.
The "innovation" legislation, as the Committee on Science and Technology public relations writer called it, is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, and other business-oriented organizations. Obviously, government programs that support their members are the ones that shouldn't be cut in any push to downsize government.
Thus, we arrive at the age-old conundrum: No one wants to pay taxes, but no one wants to sacrifice any government program that may be beneficial to him or her. I don't see too many politicians campaigning on the platform of raising the age to receive Social Security benefits, cutting Medicare benefits, and closing Veterans Administration hospitals. That's the type of political platform that gets you labeled a "cuckoo" and not a candidate.
The COMPETES act may die in the Senate, but that's just one bill. Others will pass and the federal deficit will continue to grow. That's going to be a huge burden on taxpayers, which include small to medium-sized metal fabricators. That's not the kind of help anyone is looking for.