Judge Gorsuch favors corporate goliaths over small businesses
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court has generated outrage and protest among various consumer, women’s and labor rights group. Notably absent from the conversation, however, is how this Supreme Court justice would treat small business owners.  

A closer look at his record suggests some bad news for the "mom and pop" shops struggling to get by; Judge Gorsuch is not their friend. Time and again, he’s favored corporations at the expense of small business owners, their employees and their customers. 

ADVERTISEMENT
To understand how, it’s useful to look at the current ways small businesses fare in the current economy, compared to corporations. As any small business owner would tell you, the cards are stacked against them. Whereas large corporations have grown rapidly, the rate at which new businesses are opening has steadily declined, from 16 percent in the late 1970s to 8 percent by 2011.

  

Half of those businesses aren’t able to make it after five years. Unlike large businesses, small business owners struggle to access capital and can’t, like Apple, GE, or Pzifer, book their profits offshore to lower their tax bill.

They also can’t simply move from one state to another, based on promised tax breaks or favorable treatments. Nor do they enjoy the economies of scale or market power to negotiate for cheaper prices for goods. Simply put, corporations have a good deal. 

These facts are even more concerning in the larger context of small businesses’ role as the backbone of local economies. They’ve long been the primary drivers of job growth and wealth creation, producing more than half the jobs of the country and 70 percent of net new jobs.

Moreover, a vibrant and healthy Main Street produces a ripple effect in communities that creates a positive cycle of local investment. Owners and employees spend more locally, pay more tax locally and generally contribute to creating communities that are more resilient during economic downturns. 

In short, small business owners are important, and policymakers, realizing it, have shaped policies to foster small business growth and ensure a fairer fight with corporations. 

Given this context, Gorsuch’s record on those policies is dismal. Rather than support small business owners and those policies which help them, Gorsuch would further tip the scales of justice in favor of corporations. Here are a few examples of how. 

First, Judge Gorsuch could undermine regulations that protect small business owners. Antitrust laws, for example, give small companies a chance to compete by addressing price discrimination, price fixing and other unfair business practices.

But in numerous cases — Novell v. Microsoft, for example — Judge Gorsuch has ruled in favor of huge companies engaging in exploitive or monopolistic practices, despite substantial evidence of antitrust violations. 

Other regulations that protect our food, water and air are important for small business owners — like caterers and restaurant owners — who don’t have the resources or time to inspect their products independently. Small businesses and everyday consumers rely on the government to ensure the products they sell are safe and fit for consumer use.

Yet Judge Gorsuch has shown a clear disdain for environmental regulations and has actively worked to weaken them. Weaker environmental regulations, however, jeopardize small businesses’ ability to operate, their security in the future and the confidence of their customers. 

Second, Judge Gorsuch has a strong record of corporate favoritism. This stacks the deck even further against small businesses and hurts the middle-class consumer that makes up their customer base. In the Hobby Lobby case, for example, Judge Gorsuch’s opinions clearly laid out that he believes corporations are people with rights that are more important than the rights of other people.

The implications are dramatic and widespread — not only does it add even more heft to corporations' heavyweight status, it also means that there’s little recourse when they do something wrong that hurts workers, immigrants, women, everyday Americans and small business owners. Small businesses and their customers, who don’t have the money or power of corporations, will never win against Goliath with Judge Gorsuch on the bench. 

Finally, though little additional evidence is needed to show Judge Gorsuch’s friendship with big donors and money, more than $10 million of anonymous funding has been poured into this historic struggle to get him a seat on the Supreme Court bench. Setting aside the damage Senate Republicans are doing to U.S. democracy by “going nuclear” in order to get him confirmed, the dark money is an alarming red flag.

Where’s the money coming from, and who will he owe? It almost goes without saying that small business owners have nowhere near the money or political connections that have fueled this Supreme Court showdown. They can’t afford Judge Gorsuch’s attention. How can we expect him to give them a fair shot? 

Now that Senate Republicans have voted to change rules that have been in place since the founding of the nation in order to force him through, Judge Gorsuch will be the ninth Supreme Court Justice.

Small business owners will wake up, get to work before everyone else and perhaps put in a longer day than usual. It’s tough to be a small business owner, and under Judge Gorsuch, it’s about to get a bit tougher. 

 

Amanda Ballantyne is the national director of Main Street Alliance, a national network of small business coalitions working to build a new voice for small businesses on important public policy issues. 


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.