Click here to listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM 600, Friday, June 22, 2012.

According to a recent survey by Citibank the majority of small business owners – 54 percent – have skipped paychecks in the past year in order to help keep their businesses afloat. Nearly one in four – 23 percent – have gone without pay for at least a year. Good for Citi for doing this survey and publishing the results. The survey provides empirical data to support an unmistakable feeling that millions of small business owners are keeping their businesses alive only through their sheer determination to do so.

It is nearly impossible to overstate the economic importance of small business. Small businesses are the first to hire, the last to fire and serve as the seeds for tomorrow’s multinational corporations. Entrepreneurs who put their own money at risk to pursue an idea or an opportunity are the red blood cells of the American economy. Every single corporation whose logo is iconic and whose moniker is a household name started as a small business.

America’s entire $15 trillion economy stands on the shoulders of men and women who run, nurture and, when necessary, act as blood donors to the small businesses they themselves started.

These are the men and women who do more than ooh and aah at the fireworks on the Fourth of July. These are the men and women who believe so completely in the American ideals of independence, economic liberty, individual freedom and personal responsibility that they put their talent, their money and their irreplaceable time fully on the line.

Small business owners sacrifice the comforts of tenure and the security of a regular paycheck. They seek no guarantees, vowing instead to live only on what value their customers freely place on the products and services that they sell.

When times get tough, small business owners are the first in the workforce to take a hit. As the Citibank survey reveals, when money gets tight, small business owners protect the paychecks of their employees ahead of their own. It is popular in some circles, notably academia, Hollywood and left-leaning media, to depict business owners as uncaring exploiters of their employees. The reality, however, is almost always the polar opposite. Most business owners have learned the hard way that good people are hard to find; and most business owners therefore do everything they can to make their employees glad that they work where they do. There are very few small business owners who haven’t come out of pocket personally to help an employee whose transmission gave out or whose roof sprang a leak or whose finances have been otherwise hit by sickness, divorce or some other untimely calamity.

The American small business owner is unique in all the world and is worthy of admiration during both good times and bad.

Yet let there be a good year and let the compensations for the risks taken and the sacrifices given flow, and President Obama will say, with a straight face, that these men and women aren’t paying their “fair share.”

Let an entrepreneur enjoy the rewards for which he has borne the risk, and this administration will look upon those rewards as ill gotten, and say again and again in speeches and in campaign appearances that the only “fair” thing to do is to “spread the wealth around.”

It’s a fundamental lack of economic understanding that explains why three years after Obama got the Congress to vote for a nearly one trillion dollar economic stimulus, the economy is growing at less than two percent, unemployment remains above eight percent and small business owners are still skipping paychecks.

Obama bet on big government and lost. Too bad for him.

If he had bet on America’s small businesses, he’d be carried on their shoulders to an easy re-election.

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