The rational thing for small business owners to do is to stay under 50 full-time employees, either by laying people off or by forcing people to go part time. That's exactly what's happening: last month, unemployment stayed stubbornly high and the number of persons employed part time for economic reasons ("sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers," explains the Bureau of Labor Statistics) increased by 278,000. Staying under the 50 full-time employee limit keeps small business owners out of trouble.
These days, businesses don't know what to expect out of Washington. In order to create some economic certainty, Obama's deficit commission co-chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles unveiled in late April a new-and-improved plan for deficit reduction, "a roadmap to a grand bargain," as they called it. The plan contained a mix of spending cuts, tax and entitlement reforms, and long-term debt reduction that was designed to encourage bipartisan compromise and business confidence. Reaction in Washington was muted when it first came a few weeks ago, before the White House went into crisis mode. You'd better believe it's dead now.
Washington is paralyzed. "Obama's aloof mien and holier-than-thou rhetoric have left him with little good will, even among Democrats. And the press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be," write Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen of Politico. The "dam of solid Democratic solidarity has collapsed," they report, and so, too, has any hope of getting our country back on the right track any time soon. I'm concerned for our democracy. I'm worried about our economy. And I hate to think what all of this is teaching young people about right and wrong.