When done right, Congressional recess is of course not a break at all; it is some of the hardest work of being a representative. It is not easy to re-connect with constituents in a few short days. Members of Congress must therefore make smart use of their time by meeting with the right individuals.
To begin making the most of their recess time, every member of Congress ought to visit at least one Hispanic-owned business between now and April 24.
There are millions to choose from – about four million, nationwide. Preparation for the meeting should be light. Staff can provide a dossier of the business and business owner, but mostly members must come prepared to lean in and listen to an individual who represents an economically, culturally and politically powerful constituency.
In the Latino business owner, you will find an optimist. You will find someone who represents the fastest-growing segment of business owners and consumers in the country. (Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely than the general population to become entrepreneurs and Hispanic-owned businesses are growing at 15 times the national growth rate; Hispanic consumers represent $1.7 trillion in buying power and will represent almost 20 percent of the U.S. population by 2020.) She or he will be one of the incredible individuals – small business owners – who, together, contribute two-thirds of our nation’s net new jobs, half of GDP and half of employment.
In the Latino business owner, you will find someone who has encountered real adversity, and someone who knows what it’s like to face a sea of confusing regulations, a tax code that punishes more than it rewards and health insurance premiums so astronomical they can make business ownership seem like a very bad idea (in spite of its undeniable rewards). You’ll find they have very clear views on these three issues, and their recommendations won’t be hard to remember because all of them will sound a lot like “less is more.” Less regulation. Simpler taxes – with lower rates for individuals, because that’s how small-business owners pay taxes. More affordable health insurance for them, their families and their employees.
In the Latino business owner, you will also find a constituent who knows what it’s like to be pandered to. You’ll find someone who has felt exploited, slighted – or both – by politicians. So, again, skip the talking points and just listen.
Finally, in the Latino business owner, you will find someone who might surprise you with their thoughtful, non-monolithic views on immigration and border security.
One more thing to keep in mind: The Hispanic business owner, like all small-business owners, won’t actually have the time to meet with you, or to spend a whole afternoon with you. But they will make the time, because they know how much the government can impact their business. They understand – and they’ll tell you if you don’t – how government can either stifle them, or create an environment that unleashes their power of innovation and job creation.
When parting ways with the Latino business owner, keep your promises realistic and sincere. You may do well to echo the message of Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceFormer Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 Haley has 'positive' meeting with Trump Haley hits the stump in South Carolina MORE at a recent meeting of The Latino Coalition. Pence told the group of independent business owners: “The Trump administration will be the best friend American small businesses will ever have, because when small business is strong, the American economy is strong.”
Those simple words gave that group of business owners tremendous relief and confidence. They felt understood and appreciated. And their confidence has consequences – good ones. Confident business owners make new jobs. They make our economy grow.
And those are things that make members of Congress look good — during recess, during elections, and all the time in between.
Hector Barreto is the Chairman of The Latino Coalition and the former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.