Steve's Blog

Yesterday at the White House

As I begin this week’s blog, I’m in a taxi I just caught outside the White House, on my way to Reagan Airport to fly back to Cincinnati. If I don’t come down with a case of writer’s block, I’ll finish it at the airport before my 6:05 Delta flight. Here goes. (To be totally transparent, that’s not me in the photo of the taxi.)

As you may know, I’m the Chairman of the House Small Business Committee. In that capacity, I received an invitation to attend an event at the White House with President Trump, Linda McMahon (Head of the Small Business Administration), Ivanka Trump (a small business owner and of course daughter of the President), and a bunch of small businesses from all across America. There were four other Members of Congress in attendance: Senator James Risch of Idaho who is Chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, and Congressman Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania. (In the selfie I took below, the only one of the five not in the photo is Congressman Kelly. The lady in green is Kellyanne Conway.)

I was allowed to invite one small business person from Cincinnati, and Melissa Wegman of Cincinnati’s Wegman Company attended. They are a family owned business that installs and warehouses office furniture and I had toured their facility in the past.

Anyway, President Trump kicked off the event by, among other things, mispronouncing my name. I’ve met him a couple of times before, and he comes up with a different pronunciation every time. (Bush used to do the same thing.) But that’s okay, as I like to say, I don’t care how people pronounce it, as long as they vote for it. In fact when I first ran for Cincinnati City Council 38 years ago, I only had enough money for one 10 second TV ad, and it consisted of a couple people mispronouncing my name and a voiceover saying “although no one agrees on how to pronounce his name, everyone agrees he’ll make a fine city councilman.” (I lost. Not surprisingly.)

But I digress. Back to small business at the White House. The President gave a short speech, mentioning that the stock market was at an all-time high, unemployment is the lowest it’s been in 16 years, and that GDP growth is up 2.6%, and oh yeah, how important small business is, and that he was a small businessman (before he became a much bigger businessman.)

The President then left the East Room and turned it over to the SBA Administrator and his daughter Ivanka for the rest of the program. They really did a nice job. They both spoke about the importance of small businesses to our economy. They also discussed issues important to small businesses, like tax reform, reducing regulations, and improving access to capital.

Then they opened it up for questions from small business folks in attendance from all over America. Respecting your time, I won’t repeat them all, but one in particular illustrates the challenges many small business persons face. When asked about any setbacks they may have faced, SBA Administrator Linda McMahon said she and her husband had had to file bankruptcy, watch the house they lived in be auctioned off, and before that, the car in their driveway repossessed while she was seven months pregnant with their second child. To be a small business person, you’ve got to be tough.

All in all, it was a very good event, and I’m glad I attended. One final thing I’ll mention that happened in the taxi on the way TO the White House. I glanced out the window, and saw this white haired older gentleman crossing the street in front of the taxi, and – it’s Bernie Sanders! I snapped a photo of him standing at an intersection waiting for the light to change, on my way to see the guy who beat the woman who beat him!  Only in America.

See you next week.

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