Trump’s latest harebrained scheme: Putting an actual small business owner in charge of the Small Business Administration
(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)
Donald Trump has nominated a new head of the Small Business Administration. Her name is Linda McMahon.
The top Democrat on the House Small Business Committee is dubious. “This selection is proof that President-Elect Trump’s commitment to small businesses is about as ‘real’ as professional wrestling,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) in a press release. “I am concerned her appointment follows a pattern of choosing individuals for cabinet-level positions who do not have the policy knowledge for the job.”
She’s not the only one. “While we would have liked to see someone nominated who has more direct small business experience, we hope Linda McMahon will play a strong role advocating for the needs of small businesses in the new administration,” said John Arenmeyer, founder and chief executive of Small Business Majority.
According to biographies about her, after marrying Vince McMahon in 1966 and having her first child, Linda McMahon became a paralegal at a law firm where she learned about intellectual property and contract negotiations. She then joined her husband to take over his father’s floundering wrestling business where she spent most of her time running the growing company’s operations while her husband was on the road selling and promoting. By the time she resigned as CEO in 2009 of what was then called the World Wrestling Federation (now known as World Wrestling Entertainment), McMahon has helped grow the company from 13 employees to more than 500 in eight offices across five countries.
(Note: the Small Business Administration officially defines a small business as an organization that employs less than 500 people.)
So here is a woman that is self-educated, driven, entrepreneurial and managerial. For decades she ran a small business and turned it into a much bigger company. She hired and fired people. She signed payroll checks. She negotiated contracts. She invested capital. She opened up offices. She expanded to other countries. She managed cash flow, balance sheets, income statements, schedules, meetings and egos. All of that sounds very familiar to me.
During this time, Rep. Velázquez earned a master’s degree at New York University and taught Puerto Rican studies at a community college. She was then appointed as a special assistant to a congressman and then served on the New York City Council. She soon rose to become the director of the Department of Puerto Rican Community Affairs in the United States. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 1992 where she has remained for the past 24 years and now represents her party representing me, and other small business owners like me, on the House Small Business Committee.
Velázquez is an accomplished, admirable woman. But I don’t want her representing me on the House Small Business Committee. I’m somewhat surprised that Arensmeyer, who is a former business owner and entrepreneur, would question McMahon’s experience as a business owner. But Velázquez?
Her jab at McMahon’s business sums up the arrogance, elitism and ignorance of lifelong politicians who have never run a business. Who is she to question McMahon’s livelihood? Or any of us? Just because my business buys scrap metal, sells guns, employs exotic dancers, exterminates rodents or offers entertainment through the form of wrestling instead of being a professor or a lawyer or a doctor or a member of the House of Representatives does this mean that the way I (or McMahon) make a living is any less honorable? This is who represents me on a committee that’s “fighting” for my business?
The SBA has had a great leader in Maria Contreras Sweet. But the agency’s value is still arguable. Sure, it provides backing for loans to small businesses and every year we hear how these loans have grown. And yes, there have been successes. But I’ve never seen the numbers showing me how these businesses fared in the end. How many of them succeeded and what percentage of these guaranteed loans failed? Other than this service, I can count none of my more than 600 clients who have used the SBA for assistance in dealing with government contracts, red tape or tax problems because the agency still remains too bureaucratic, too full of disinterested government workers, and too far removed from our day-to-day problems.
I don’t know if Linda McMahon will do a good job. I do know she’s going to have her hands full once the realization of running a government agency takes hold. She won’t be able to just hire and fire and get her own way. This will be nothing like running her own company. But I’m happy to let her have her shot. She’s a business owner.
Wait…a business owner? Next thing you know Trump will be putting an actual military general in charge of the Department of Defense. Oh, whoops.