We are now entering the 4th week of stay-at-home measures here in Maryland. This exists for every state in the union to some degree. The health implications have become very clear to most of us and the vast majority of citizens have risen to the occasion and quickly learned new norms for decorum, adopted new hygiene habits, and become far more efficient and effective with technology.
A crisis of this measure elicits a rally around the flag response and people band together with a common purpose. Make no mistake, despite a loud and determined subset of deniers, the US public has rallied to do their part. There are many examples of creative ways that the public has found to support the sick and their families, to support the healthcare workers who care for the sick, and to rally around those who have become collateral damage…witness the huge unemployment rolls. We should thank every effort and acknowledge every good deed.
This sentiment is a truth and I will stand by it in the immediate moment. However, this pandemic isn’t something that will impact us only in the moment and only in the short term. This has called into question many deep rooted assumptions about our society, our culture, our leadership, and our core values as a democratic capitalist country. I contend that we can both serve the immediate needs of our society and also get to dissecting the truths that have become unveiled as our societal norms ground to a screeching halt.
It has been fascinating to watch what we have learned from the global change in humans daily behaviors. Because the activity and movement of human populations has been reduced, by as much as 75% in some areas, there has been a reduction in noise, pollution, fossil fuel emissions, consumption, and many other completely unexpected occurrences. This has allowed seismologists, as one example, to register data that was previously drowned out by the noise of the busy human population, allowing the scientists to collect data previously unavailable. This science will leap forward because of this opportunity. The same is happening in many many fields and will lead to changes in our knowledge and understanding to a very large degree.
I applaud those who are busy innovating, inventing, analyzing, and adapting as we tumble into unexplored and uncharted places. The economic impacts of this virus are massive. We have seen businesses shutter and cease to function across the country. Those that have managed to stay open have seen a large reduction in their sales and ability to solicit sales. Our response to this economic impact is very telling.
One political party is worried about investors and large corporations. The other political party is also worried about these large corporations, but is also worried about funding government and providing a minimum handout to the most at risk citizens. The federal attempt to address the current economic crisis is a compromise between these two perspectives. This bailout or stimulus package is woefully inadequate and focuses on the wrong areas. It is coming to light that the PPP funding ran out, because larger businesses applied for and received large portions of what was intended for small businesses, Main Street businesses. This is how Main Street businesses are viewed by the powers that be, we are simply a cog in the process of creating wealth for Wall Street and the large scale investment class.
Small business exists to churn dollars, employ a large portion of the workforce, and purchase from the large corporate entities that dominate our current economic landscape. We are a necessary creator of consumers by employing large portions of the workforce and paying them enough to make good buyers. Main Street business and its employees also provide the tax base for running the country and maintaining the countries infrastructure.
It is in times like these that it becomes apparent how the deck is stacked. Small business allocation from the various stimulus legislation comes nowhere close to what would be needed to keep stricken entrepreneurs in business. It is this clarity, brought to the forefront during an unexpected crisis that should drive us to consider if this is what we want for our economy and country. Are we really willing to be beholden to large powerful GLOBAL corporations over our local entrepreneurially driven Main Street businesses? Will we continue to accept the blathering of Wall Street shills who maintain that this is the only way to have a functioning national economy? I believe that it is time to rethink, nigh reimagine what the economic priorities of our nation should be and what they were intended to be.
There was no council of family owned restaurants that weighed in on what should happen when it was deemed necessary to enforce social distancing by shutting down all restaurants. However, how many Goldman Sachs executives got to weigh in on what the stimulus package should look like? How many corporate lobbyists weighed in on what constituted an essential business? It seems obvious to me that antiques stores did not hold any sway in Washington D.C. circles, hence my joke that family owned restaurants and antique stores seem to be the only businesses that are non-essential.
It was interesting to see various corporations and their official advocate, the US Chamber of Commerce, roll out a “Save Small Business Plan”. Like I said above, I applaud anything in the immediacy that helps anyone anywhere during this crisis. However, the long term agenda of their concern for small business isn’t the same as that of the small businesses themselves. Small businesses are needed as cogs in the machine and too much damage to the local small business economy could trickle up. Best to mitigate this damage and keep enough small businesses functioning, so that a return to the status quo would be less traumatic to the system and would be accepted by all.
I am here to raise the alarm. The status quo isn’t anything that we entrepreneurs, small business owners, and Main Street citizens should have any desire to return to nor should we complacently be forced to return to. It is time to reignite small businesses and reimagine Main Street economics. It is time for a united, well informed, small business revolution.