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Opinion: Small businesses need a hand up, not mandates

President Biden is committed to a new philosophy: mandate, mandate, mandate

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People protest President Biden’s vaccine mandate at the Utah State Capitol.

Heather Moller carries an American flag on the grounds at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, as several hundred people showed up to express their opinions about the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate during a meeting of the Legislature’s Business and Labor Interim Committee.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The economic toll from the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for nearly everyone. But I think we can all agree that this is especially true for small businesses. 

In 2016, small businesses employed nearly 60 million people. That’s almost half of the entire private workforce. Then, suddenly, they were forced to close their doors. And, as we took the time to better understand the virus, many did so out of necessity and without complaint. 

We rightfully championed these businesses during their necessary losses, and I proudly played a role in their financial support in Congress. Now, we should be rewarding and empowering them for their sacrifice. Instead, President Joe Biden is doing the exact opposite.

Rather than creating, or even allowing opportunity for these businesses to thrive in a post-pandemic America, Biden committed to a new philosophy: mandate, mandate, mandate. His excessive executive action mandating vaccines is doing equal damage to the U.S. economy and individual liberty.

Under his orders, employees of federal contractors must be vaccinated by Dec. 8. Health care providers risk losing government reimbursements if their workers aren’t vaccinated. And, as many people know, a rule is currently being drafted to require employers with more than 100 employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly.

Many employers are imposing mandates and hard deadlines in anticipation of these rules. I believe that private companies should be allowed to impose whatever requirements they see fit. Every employer operates within a different industry, with different employees, in different environments. They should be allowed to tailor their policies accordingly.

For these employers, President Biden’s one-size-fits-all approach is making an already bad situation even worse. Thanks to the president’s perennial unemployment checks, employers are struggling to find workers. And this comes on the heels of businesses facing inconsistent, arbitrary lockdowns. Vaccine mandates are just the newest roadblock for small businesses across the country, and the newest incentive for employees to stay home.

And, as I’m sure everyone has been watching and reading over the past few weeks, there are waves of anecdotes of teachers, bus drivers and health care workers quitting because of these mandates. The evidence isn’t just anecdotal, either.

Last month, a record 51% of small-business owners reported job openings they couldn’t fill. In August, a record high 4.3 million U.S. workers quit their jobs. To compound these losses, an analysis by human resources consultant Gartner found that companies expect to lose between 2% and 8% of their workers because of vaccine mandates.

Right now, there are more than 10 million unfilled jobs in the U.S., which is near a record high. Yet, last month, the economy added less than half the number of jobs that economists expected. This was the worst jobs report of Biden’s presidency, as the labor force participation rate fell to less than 62%.

And who can be surprised? First, Biden extended small-business shutdowns well beyond a reasonable point. Then, he extended unemployment checks well beyond a reasonable point. Now, he’s forcing workers to go home with vaccine mandates. When you create bad incentives, you’re going to get bad results.

There is a common theme throughout all these policies, though. From day one in office, Biden’s mission has been clear: He wants you to rely on the government from cradle to grave. To sell this plan, he’s telling Americans that more taxing, spending and mandating will solve their financial woes. This is an economic fairy tale that has a scary ending — one that only George Orwell could imagine.

Thankfully, we know exactly how to solve our problems. Congress needs to start expanding opportunity, not shrinking it with mandate after mandate. Individual liberty must always triumph over government dependence. Once we proudly accept that reality, American culture and business will reap the benefits.

Rep. Chris Stewart, a Republican, represents Utah’s 2nd Congressional District.