America’s entrepreneurial class is dying

While small businesses have certainly taken a hit following the Bush Great Recession, the evidence shows that American entrepreneurs have been getting pummeled for more than thirty years. According to a new study released today by the New American Foundation, the number of entrepreneurs per capita has dropped by 53% since 1977. And since 1991, the number of Americans who are self-employed has dropped by more than 20%. In other words, Americans who use to be able to start their own businesses are increasingly being forced to join the ranks of the working poor.

That’s because our nation has forgotten how to foster an entrepreneurial class over the last thirty years. With massive tax cuts for the wealthy and for transnational corporations – the rich are getting richer and the big corporations are getting bigger. It doesn’t help that we no longer enforce the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and have jumped head-first into so-called Free Trade either, which has given way to giant transnational corporations that small business upstarts simply can’t compete with. Not only that, we’ve destroyed the social safety net in the country, which used to give Americans a chance to take risks and try new jobs because they had a net of security to fall in if they failed.

Today if they fail, they’re condemned to indefinite poverty – so no one can afford to take risks to start small businesses. This is the consequence of thirty years of Reaganomics – and it’s what Republicans today are doubling-down on.


Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 11 years 49 weeks ago

I wonder how many small businessmen/women, or entrepreneurs, are Republican or who have voted Republican? I wonder how many of them voted for Reagan and Bush? It's like they used to say "don't worry, all the jobs that we are sending overseas will be replaced, here in the US, with higher level jobs. But this didn't happen, did it? Or , if it did happen on a very small scale...those jobs didn't last long because they were disappeared overseas as well. Republicans and gutless, turncoat Democrats ruined America! Smoke and mirrors!

leighmf's picture
leighmf 11 years 49 weeks ago

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen...Just this very morning my husband was taken from our house in handcuffs on a charge that he did not ship goods ordered from our garden catalog a year ago. I was ordered by a swat team to stay inside. They all had vests on and stared at the front door as if I would come out shooting. I was not allowed to know who the accuser is. There was a sheriff's car, an unmarked car, and three officers who made a very big scene interviewing my cuffed hubby in front of our house for an hour.

As we know that an arrest can be made on simply a complaint (from out of state) without corroboration or investigation by the police, I will now have to pay a lawyer as well as post bond, which does not help our pitiful cash flow as it is.

We started the catalog in 1997 when my husband almost died of peritonitis in a private hospital waiting 13 hours for a surgeon. What would have been a simple to repair intestinal tear with timely treatment turned into a life or death surgery because there was no surgeon on duty, leaving him with a temporary colostomy. It was supposed to be reversed in six months, but we couldn't afford it. The colostomy is right on the beltline so he cannot wear normal clothes, and due to this complicated lifestyle, continuing to work outside the home was impossible.

I have always been self employed, but with the wrong degree. I am a marine environmental consultant living in a fully developed coastal area where environmental laws are scarcely enforced.

Without his job, therefore, we created the online catalog from nothing but imagination and labor. Over the last fifteen years I do not deny we have had cash flow problems, but not because we don't live frugally. We have not owned a home since 1993. Our car was purchased for $1600 cash. That is what we have, but I don't go around calling the police and the Attorney General on AT&T who has been double-charging us on an iron clad contract for the last year! We call customer service.

Many times we have been ripped off by customers who took goods, kept them, then charged back on their credit cards. We have fought tooth and nail to eke out an honest modest living without resorting to welfare and credit cards. There have been occasions when we did not know about customer problems, and there have been occasions where once solid manufacturers who we ship from have disappeared overnight and we ncan't complete an order. People order things and then hold their money back forever after we have worked hours and hours on their order. Frequently customers agree to new shipping arrangements and then charge back on their credit cards anyway, or make horrible complaints wherever they can. Some customers have stuck us with hundreds of dollars in freight charges they agreed to pay. Others use the police instead of e-mail and phone to settle their customer service issues, when they unilaterally rescind our agreement.

It has now been five hours since my man was hauled off and I haven't heard a thing and there is no information available.

Thom, we are condemned not to fail or file bankruptcy, but to be dragged right to the old fashioned Debtor's Prison, until I can even find out who has made this charge against our pitiful business. If I can't afford bond and an attorney, I don't even know how to manage things to keep the catalog going.

What the WA WA.

jswood41's picture
jswood41 11 years 49 weeks ago

Years ago, 63", to be precise, my country and my 22 yer old brain sterilized me. There was no way I would bring a child into this flawed republic, apparently populated by all my redneck relatives.

I'm a patrion, meaning I will defend the Constitution, a veteran meaning I was willing to risk, and an optimist meaning I think humans have some limited potential and value.

Lots of pats later I'm so grateful I need not worry about future generations. Not with the sellouts we have elected in the past 40 years, not with the amoral boomers in the banks , and not when we have rewarded slime like Cheney.

rimabg's picture
rimabg 11 years 49 weeks ago

I'm a small business owner since 1994. In 2000 I took home a profit of about $200,000. Nice.

Ever since 2001 (isn't that when Bush took office?) my business has been plagued by industry labor actions against giant multinationals who don't CARE if people go on strike, they just hire scabs and outsource. These same companies retaliate against uppity folks by instituting rollbacks so that this year I will earn 80% LESS for the same sales I did in 2000.

I'm still hanging in there, but I, and all my colleagues, have really taken a hit. Thank heaven I own my car and my house!

In the meantime, my health care costs have tripled, and the value I get for that money has been cut by 75%. My family has to spend $28,000 on premiums and out of pocket care before those theives at Anthem pay dime one.

So, I just called the offices for all five so-called Democrats who voted to repeal the ACA to calmly explain to them EXACTLY how they should be helping small business - by not only supporting the ACA, but moving on to Single Payer. Four of them listened politely, however, the assistant to the alleged gentleman from Arkansas hung up on me.

Welcome to the Oligarchy of America, where anyone trying to be in business with a gross of less than $500 million will be either starved to death or eaten by bigger fish.

Maybe someday I'll just declare bankruptcy and screw them all. It worked for Donald Trump, right? He did it four times, if I recall correctly.... Maybe he's not an idiot after all! ;-D

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 11 years 49 weeks ago

Deleted by author.

leighmf's picture
leighmf 11 years 49 weeks ago

Right- because the whole point of this blog topic is failure of American entrepeneurship. There is not a large corporation in this country that pays bills within 90 days. How do you think the furniture companies can offer No interest No Payments for Five Years?

I pay everything up front. I have no credit accounts with my manufacturers, and no lines of credit , grants, public assistance, or business loans upon which to default. In my landscape design business, I give cash money to growers and farmers and workers.This in spite of the fact my husband and I both would easily be qualified for disability with Florida disability lawyers.

Cash for the merchandise, cash for the phone company, cash for the shipper. We give cash to American-only companies.

I am not selling Florida swampland but custom finished garden art which is not Made in China. This is not an easy trade. It is like the restaurant business in a way. In which case, even in the finest restaurants, there are always those who didn't enjoy the meal as much as they expected to, so they want it taken off the check, or perhaps will even go so far as to poach a lighting fixture, item of decor, or flower arrangement off the table.

Or perhaps a mediocre writer will publish drivel and tripe criticism in a two-bit newspaper.

I do not file lawsuits because they are waste of paper, and I do not call the police to give me temporary power over another.

Surely I would love to have access to my own family funds so I could run my business smoothly. I would be another Martha Stewart. But my financing was actually stolen by transportation lawyers.

Any more bright ideas concerning what I should do with my life are welcome.

leighmf's picture
leighmf 11 years 49 weeks ago

Thank you Palindromedary for your considerate presentation of my problems as reiterated by a libelous uneducated creep who makes a living hosting Complaints from gardeners about every garden business, nurseryman, or rival on the internet. I have been approached by numerous hard-working people who want a class action against his search engine tactics and propagation of slander. He claims it is legal because an internet provider is not responsible for other people's posts.

You also must have it out for me because how would you possibly have known the name of my business?

Dave's Garden has put a number of struggling business to death.

He rides on other people's domains and then encourages unsubstantiated injurious posts. I have received 15 complaints in fifteen years. Some of the big well-funded companies in the country of course have received hundreds of complaints if not more.

Of course everyone has their own story. They love buying direct from the manufacturer, which is what I offer, but they don't know anything about the chain of custody a direct ordered product goes through, ending up with the freight lines. We have had to refund money many times

Nasty tyrants threaten to call the police and the attorney general when they don't get what they want when they want it. They also lie. We make it very clear in our store policy that we cannot promise to meet specific deadlines for events and occasions because the order has to go through 1)custom manufacturing 2)loading from the manufacturer to the freight company 3)delivery by the freight company.

I don't want to get started on freight companies.

But now, an update from the Prison Wife- I must flee now to pay his bail, but here's the real story for you as I finally heard it from the prisoner's one free phone call-

Last year we were unable to complete a whole shipment. We ran out of money. As compensation we delivered a wholesale account to the buyer, who can now purchase everything wholesale, and we drew up a Promissory Note with NO LATE Penalty or DEFAULT Clause, of which we have a signed copy, to pay the difference. We made a payment in May and were late in June. The customer company is having its own difficulties so they lied to the police and did not tell them about our Legally Executed Contractual Agreement as an attempt to scare us and extract funds from our company which are slated for other deliveries.

Since you are so up on my business, Pal, you will notice that I AM NOT incorporated, because I take personal responsibility for my work, and I don't file bankruptcies, even if making good on debts means I am subject to all sorts of indignations.

So celebrate. And may the road come up to hit your face.

P.S. Back from the pokey. The rent is gone for bail- AT &T has been double charging me for a year. Customer service did not call back with my resolution.

But I have a $27,000 crop of red mangroves ready for coastal restoration. If only people actually followed through with coastal restoration, things would be just peachy.

and FYI

It cost Dave Whitinger thousands of dollars to dispute the domain with hotsy totsy lawyers and it cost me $6.95 to be a respondent. So who wins? He has made more enemies in the plant industry than I can count. Further, his web content is old wives garden gibberish and Dave wouldn't know a Befaria racemosa from Borreria terminalis. Do you, without peeking?

U.S. Citizen's picture
U.S. Citizen 11 years 49 weeks ago

Come on, Thom. The Corpocrats are contributing to the problem also. Reagonomics morphed into Clintonomics/Rubinomics. The Republicorps may be worse but we still have a corporate party and a regressive, uber-corporate party. Since you're no longer on in L.A., I don't hear your show anymore. Are you talking about the TransPacific trade agreement being secretly negotiated by the Obama administration? Remember, the three recently-enacted free trade agreements were supported by both parties and signed by Obama.

megalomaniac's picture
megalomaniac 11 years 49 weeks ago

A megalomaniacs approach to capitalism

Actually Wiki’s definition of mania is very awkward to what one could feel. For me, new and exciting ideas that can help stabilized capitalism better for the future is always challenging. The naysayers like myself sometimes do flip around. Anyway there might be a “Corpritical” way for things but not very likely embraced by the status quo. I just made up the word Corpritical, yes as in Corporate, and Tickle. Very Funny, ha.

Why Corpritical? Consider from now on all corporate mergers, especially the mega big ones, Must fulfill the new corpitical-guidelines. The most significant, those that concern workers that could be on the chopping block. Simply those individuals that are proposed to be laid off or terminated because of a merger must be pensioned off or have it be shown that the new proposed Corpritical has through the years built skills in the employee base. The type of plan could very well eliminate unemployment payroll deductions. Eliminate the toxic asset banking culture, and remove the burden of unemployment compensation from the government. The caveat is that these issues must be fulfilled before stockholders act to merge. Moreover, community investment, like fair share in the use of infrastructure must be established. Likely more needs to be filled before a corporate CEO gets a one hundred million dollar bonus. With a list of goods that must be fulfilled before any bonus compensation is issued. Then and only then CEO’s get those million dollar bonus plans. Ladies and gentlemen the idea is nothing too new the NFL and NBA do it all the time. YoHoo these are union entities.

Lastly, hats off to Mr. Hartmann, his is pretty good at rhetorical boogie. He does offer a political stream of truthiness, pounding out real meaning that has a flavor and appeal to those red state people. Thom the rhetorical boogie man that very well scares the pants off those hate wing conservatives. I watched him the other day on Current channel, Shizzam.

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