Advocacy and Political Reality
Monday, July 13, 2009
By this time, it has become clear to everyone that we are living through what can best be described as challenging times for businesses everywhere. What is equally clear is that great changes are underway, and that the status quo is no longer sufficient - not for you, not for your businesses and certainly not for WIPP. We believe that we are one of the most influential voices on Capitol Hill, and we have already proven that we can shape the legislative changes which are pouring out of Washington.
WIPP has grown to an organization which represents 49 different associations and over half a million business owners, including business owners from every state in the union, every city, and virtually every town in the United States. Some of our members are liberal, some moderate, some are conservative, some democrats, some republicans, and some are independents. However, what unites us is our desire to work for the best interests of all our members and the businesses which they own. WIPP has achieved the reputation of being the "go-to" address for an unbiased assessment of what is in the best interests of women business owners everywhere. We have achieved this reputation by adhering strictly to those small-business interests which unite our membership as determined by regular and continuous surveys, focus groups, briefings with issue committees, and by not getting sidetracked on non-relevant, non-business issues which do not represent the consensus of our constituency.
Over the past year we have worked hard on our Economic Blueprint, which articulates those consensus issues, and which were fine-tuned by the Blueprint Committee and our Government Affairs Team. We have been energetically promoting this Blueprint to the appropriate Committees in the House and Senate and in the White House, and have met with considerable success. This success is due primarily to adhering strictly to two basic principles in our approach:
1) WIPP has established itself as a bi-partisan coalition and as such strives to maintain strong relationships with leadership on both sides of the aisle. Using this formula, we have been very successful in gaining the trust of Republican and Democratic Members of Congress and now of two White House Administrations. The Board of Directors is committed to maintaining these lines of communication and this sense of trust, so that we can continue to fight for the economic issues which are our central concern.
2) We have carefully concentrated our efforts in those areas where we can have an impact, and not dilute our strength on issues whose outcome we cannot effect - we must pick our battles. Therefore, to cite some examples:
- Our strategy was not to promote or attack the stimulus package (since it was going to be passed anyway) but to ensure that our members understood and benefited from it. One of the points which our membership felt was important was to make sure that women business owners were in line to effectively compete for federal contracting opportunities. Thus, we have become the "experts" on government procurement and have the best, most relevant, and most detailed training program in this field, "Give Me 5", which has now prepared over 150,000 business owners to "get in the game" of government contracts.
- In the matter of health care reform, we have carved out access and affordability as the specific areas that small businesses need to address. Our Blueprint maintains that at the heart of health care reform for women-owned businesses is the establishment of a nationwide purchasing pool. We have endorsed components of a bill that was introduced by Senators Durbin, Lincoln, and Snowe, S. 979, the SHOP Act. We wholeheartedly agree with state-based exchange programs but believe that critical to their success is the inclusion of private nationwide plans for businesses that have 100 employees or less. In addition, we support a simplified enrollment process, the utilization of small business organizations, and a web portal to assist small businesses in making healthcare benefit decisions. We believe that any reform proposal should include tax credits for small businesses who offer healthcare to their employees. We further support an individual requirement for coverage, but not an employer mandate for small businesses as we cannot be certain that reform will give us the lower rates we need to offer insurance. WIPP is opposed to taxation of employees health benefits because it places a further burden on those who work for small businesses. Although there are suggestions that placing a cap on the ability to deduct premiums could create a downward pressure on premiums, we are unwilling to take that risk.
- Relative to energy, when the Senate moves forward with its comprehensive energy bill, we will advocate for our Blueprint Principles.
We hope all of you understand that our strategy is to maximize our advocacy efforts on behalf of all small business. All of this has been achieved with your guidance and input, and reconciled with political reality. If we keep our eye on the ball, we will advance together to a better day for everyone.