Dear Mr. President,
I'm not an economist. I don't know how small businesses are defined, or how they affect the economy or anything like that. I don't know what taxes hurt them or which policies help them. Today, I went to the cafe down the street from my house, which is owned by 3 sisters. They've been open for a year, but they've been making coffee in Seattle since before I was born. They love their customers, good beer, and loud music. The cafe has a bar, a ping-pong table, and video games; it's a local haunt for university kids and a friendly space for LGBTQ gatherings. It's one of my favorite places to go. One of the owners and I got into a conversation about the difference between working for yourself, as she does, and working for a large corporation, like I do. My job might be considered "safer" than hers, or at least, I have much less to lose than she does, but we agreed that her interactions with people are more genuine and more meaningful because of the sense of community created by a small business.
I know small business are important to you, and I'm grateful for that. I may not work for one, but when I shop, I always try to shop local, or to support small business, when I can. My favorite coffee shops, my grocery store, the best restaurants and bars are all small, locally-owned institutions. They are a source of pride. I'm glad you're willing to advocate for small business, to defend these last vestiges of local color in a world increasingly smeared with strip malls full of the the same corporate logos. I know you'll do your part, legislatively. I think people need to be reminded of their own responsibility, their own power as consumers. If we don't want every one in our community to work at Wal-Mart, then we shouldn't shop there just because it's more convenient than making many stops. We must sometimes be willing to forgo the cold efficiency and lower costs of the corporate model.
As the cafe owner and I were talking, she began to talk about the obstacles faced by small business owners. Her greatest concern wasn't the government, it wasn't taxes, it wasn't even corporations. It was consumers. People who would rather have the consistency of corporate coffee served by clean-cut youth in collard shirts. She may have found her niche, may have enough customers who love the informality, the out-of-this-world espresso and the smart-mouthed bar tenders, but she knows she's one of the lucky ones. It is, once again, proof that the quest for the cheapest, most convenient things in life has a hidden cost, a toll taken on all who forgo complexity and contradiction for thoughtless repetition. Thank you for advocating for small businesses, Mr. President, and I hope that you keep reminding Americans how important they are.