Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

What John Kerry Can Do For You The candidate speaks out on death, taxes, and his love for the SBA.
By Richard McGill Murphy; John Kerry

(FORTUNE Small Business) – With so much focus on small business in this year's presidential campaign, we thought it was time to get Senator John Kerry's views. In an exclusive interview aboard his gleaming new Boeing 757 campaign jet, FSB asked Kerry to weigh in on topics ranging from universal health insurance (good) to blowing up the SBA (very bad).

Poll after poll shows small-business owners favoring Bush over you. Why?

George Bush has been downright unfriendly to small business by consolidating loans under the Small Business Administration and handing them out to large businesses, not honoring the small-business set-asides or the procurement programs that try to help small business. And he's done nothing to lower the cost of health care. I have a 50% tax credit for health care that will lower their cost of doing business. George Bush does not. I introduced legislation to reduce the filings on tax forms so that a small business could file a single tax form, federal and state.... George Bush has not. I think as people learn that, I'm gonna do fine.

Based on the recent economic rebound, the Bush administration is arguing that its tax cuts worked. How do you respond?

Rarely in modern times has the American economy had so much stimulus in it, aside from any tax cuts. I mean, just the war spending alone ought to move some jobs, for God's sake.... But the kinds of jobs that are being created are way below the pay level of the jobs we're losing.... There's a $172 billion gap between what Americans are earning and what they should be earning if we'd had growth at the normal rate of any recovery in the past.

You're at odds with majority small-business opinion on the inheritance tax and on rolling back income tax cuts for those earning more than $200,000. Why?

Well, actually, 95% of all business owners would not be affected at all by the rollback, No. 1.... No. 2, I will lower their cost of doing business. On health care, on energy costs, on procurement, transportation, I'll be much better for them.... And on the inheritance tax, I'm going to give them a more generous exemption than they get under Bush, of $10 million. For those small businesses struggling to compete in the U.S., I will be using the money that we get from closing the loophole that rewards overseas investment, and we will be providing a tax cut to homegrown businesses. So 99% of American businesses get a 5% tax cut from John Kerry. That's better than George Bush.

Given that the SBA reaches only a tiny percentage of small-business owners, might it make sense to eliminate the SBA and give the money back to small businesses in tax cuts?

Absolutely, positively not. The record shows that we have repaid the budget of the SBA many times over through the success stories that it has helped to fund. Intel, FedEx, Callaway Golf, to name a few ... have paid the budget of the SBA many times over in their tax revenues to the U.S.

Under what circumstances would you contemplate raising tariffs to protect U.S. jobs?

Carefully. Very, very reluctantly.... Tariffs, by and large, are a very blunt instrument and not a particularly helpful tool in the end. On a temporary basis, occasionally, they may help you rectify an imbalance, but you have to be really thoughtful and careful about it.