Small businesses around the country are attempting to bounce back from the devastating effects of the pandemic. But vaccine mandates imposed by the Biden administration, critics say, threaten to crater the progress made by small companies just as they’re starting to get back on their feet.

Alfredo Ortiz is president and CEO of Job Creators Network, an organization representing small businesses that is suing the Biden administration over its vaccine mandates.

“[Small businesses] were the ones that really particularly got hit hard,” Ortiz says. “[W]hen we all look back now, it looks like big businesses just continue to get bigger, but our small businesses just really suffered.”

“Whether it was mandate regulations in terms of the masks, whether it was seating arrangements, capacity, I mean, you name it. They were just getting hit hard left and right,” he says.

Ortiz joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to talk about that lawsuit and the impact of government policies on small businesses.

We also cover these stories:

  • Attorney General Merrick Garland orders investigations into criminal conduct at school board meetings.
  • Prominent Republicans, including Sen. Josh Hawley from Missouri and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, criticize the Department of Justice’s investigation.
  • Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies before a Senate subcommittee on how the company is putting its profits before users.

Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.

Doug Blair: Our guest today is Alfredo Ortiz, president and CEO at Job Creators Network, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for pro-small business policies. Alfredo, thank you so much for joining us today.

Alfredo Ortiz: Thank you for having me.

Blair: Of course. So, the Job Creators Network recently announced that they are going to be suing the Biden administration over proposed vaccine mandates that are going to be imposed on businesses with 100 employees or more. Could you go into a little more detail about the lawsuit and what caused you to file it?

Ortiz: Sure. Well, first of all, again, thank you for having me. I think one of the things, when you think about … small businesses, especially under the COVID regime and what was happening or the Biden administration, they have really had a real tough go at it. They were the ones that really particularly got hit hard.

I think, when we all look back now, it looks like big businesses just continue to get bigger, but our small businesses just really suffered—whether it was mandate regulations in terms of the mask, whether it was seating arrangements, capacity, I mean, you name it. They were just getting hit hard left and right.

So, one of the things, once this mandate came out, we were like, this is absolute government overreach. First of all, we just don’t believe that [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration] has the regulatory authority to do that, first and foremost. We believe actually Congress would, if they could pass a law for it, which, again, I don’t think would happen because they won’t ever get the 60 votes that they need to get it done.

But when you looked at the impact it was going to have on small businesses—again, already suffering from labor shortages, for example, inflation costs—this was going to be an additional hit for them, because all those companies that have employees over 100, guess what? A lot of those are in really pretty successful states right now.

In many cases, for example, one of our stops that we’re doing, because we’re doing a national bus tour, was in Missouri, for example. And this company had 160 people, it is a steel production company. And they said, “Look, we have a 2% unemployment rate here.”

You know how easy it would be for these guys who don’t want the vaccine—which by the way, was about 40% of their workforce, don’t want to do it and would refuse to do it. They said they’ll just go find another person to employ them, which would be very easy for them to do. And we’re going to lose our skilled workforce. This is a major impact to them. And so, we just really firmly believe that that kind government overreach was just ridiculous.

And let me be really clear, we’re not anti-vaxxers. We actually encourage Americans to get the vaccine. We do think it’s a good thing. I personally am vaccinated, several of my staff are vaccinated, but several aren’t. We encourage it, but we’re not going to force them to do it or threaten them with the idea of firing them.

The idea of also incurring a fee for the employers if they don’t actually comply is another, we just believe, ridiculous aspect of this.

Overall though, we also believe that the Biden administration is just being deceitful and dishonest with the American public, because they talk about [how] this mandate is for our largest employers of this country. Well, I’m sorry, but when I hear “largest employers,” I’m thinking Delta, Coca-Cola, IBM, you name it. I’m not thinking Joe’s Manufacturing, Midwest, that has 125 people as some of our largest employers in this country.

So, I think they’re trying to position it so that it sounds like it’s really hitting the large companies, but when the SBA itself, the Small Business Administration, has a definition of 500 or less as a small business, when you’re hitting 100 or more, guess what? The majority of those people you actually are going to be hitting are small businesses.

Blair: Right. It sounds like a lot of people consider the small business to be mom and pop shops, but 101 employees definitely would be considered a small business. And it is slightly over that line.

You went into a little bit of detail about some of the consequences that this vaccine mandate might impose on small businesses, like a mom and pop shop or Joe’s Manufacturing in the Midwest. But is this affecting these small businesses probably more than a larger business? Or what are some of the consequences that affect smaller businesses, as opposed to the larger ones?

Ortiz: Yeah. Well, obviously, because of the way it looks like it’s being written out, or will be written out, it’s 100 or more. Right? A lot of businesses have about 50 or less, roughly, of the small businesses. But we’re still talking, probably, a good 30% to 40% of the small businesses that would actually fall in that category.

So when you think about it, we’re still talking millions and millions of small businesses that employ tens of millions of people and forcing them with that kind of mandate, again, we just don’t believe makes sense. And really, the mandate in terms of the heftiness of that regulation on them versus a large company, it’s very, very lopsided.

Look, just go back to the Dodd-Frank years and what happened there under all that banking regulation. Right? I mean, what ended up happening? The big banks didn’t get smaller or go out of business, they got bigger.

And what happened to our smallest community banks that served all the local communities? Over 2,000 community banks across the country, many in minority population areas, went out of business.

Because look, they can’t afford that kind of regulation, because if they hire one or two lawyers to comply, the same as a large company, as a percentage of their cost of doing business, that’s a heck of a lot more for a small business than it is for a large business.

So, again, we just believe this is yet another indication of just how clueless the Biden administration is when it comes to small businesses and how they honestly just don’t really care. I mean, we’ve gone through every single policy that the Biden administration has put forth so far. We can’t find one that actually is intended to help small businesses.

Now, I got challenged a little bit on that. Somebody goes, “Oh, wait a minute. The Paycheck Protection Program renewal.” I’m like, OK, it’s the renewal of a program that came out from the Trump administration.

So this isn’t a Biden administration initiative and quite frankly, all that work and all the votes and everything was already being done before Biden took office. And so this was really just kind of a carryover from the Trump administration.

So we really can’t find a single policy that is there to, and intended to, help small business.

Blair: That’s just so crazy. Now, one of the things that I’m very curious about is, in the course of this lawsuit, in the course of your bus tours, you must have spoken with some small business owners that would have fears and concerns about what this vaccine mandate could mean for their business. Could you share with our listeners some of the things they’re saying?

Ortiz: Well, again, pinning it back in on the labor shortage idea, that’s where their biggest concern is. That a lot of these areas, unemployment rates are really low. And this is a job-seekers market. Even when you think of the unemployment, when you have two jobs available for every unemployed person, this is a really pretty healthy market, from a job perspective.

So that’s one of their big against fears, is they are just going to have people that go looking for a company that has less than 100 employees, that isn’t forced to do this mandate, and they’re going to lose their skilled workforce. And so that’s a big, big part of that.

And of course, the compliance cost is another aspect of it, but when you combine it with everything else … they’re feeling the crushing arm of government on their businesses. And so it really is now becoming the collective kind of death by 1,000 cuts, which was really what was happening under the Obama administration, which they complained about.

Remember, there was a period under the Obama administration where more businesses were closing than were actually opening. I called it negative entrepreneurialism, basically. But that’s what was happening, right?

So I wouldn’t be surprised if you start seeing more people get out of their businesses, start selling their businesses, just saying, “We just can’t take this kind of regulation. We’re really concerned about the tax.” We’ll have a chance to talk about that, but the new taxes are going to be hitting these small businesses in terms of recalling some of what happened under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. That’s another big concern of theirs, and of ours, as well.

Blair: I’m also curious if you were able to speak with them maybe about some of the mask mandates and social distancing mandates. I recall, near the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of restaurants were unable to survive due to the pretty onerous restrictions inserted on requirements between spacing between tables and [personal protective equipment]. Did they in any way, shape, or form indicate that that was still an issue? How did those [mandates] affect those small businesses?

Ortiz: I would probably say, initially, that was a big issue for a lot of companies. The amazing thing about small business owners and entrepreneurs is they tend to figure things out and they try to do, not workarounds, but they try to just figure out how to make things work. And I think in that particular case, they have found ways of making it work. It has impacted, especially restaurants, for example.

Now that … a lot of these mask mandates have freed up and a lot of the regulations have freed up, [it’s] not as big of an issue, of course, but it definitely was at the beginning. I mean, I think the numbers that I’m seeing still for New York City, for example, though, restaurants closed by the end of the year in the city itself, I’m seeing the number to be as high as 65% of the actual restaurants—

Blair: Wow.

Ortiz: … in New York City will close by year-end because they just couldn’t survive.

Blair: Wow.

Ortiz: Right? When you have fixed overheads—and this is, again, what folks didn’t understand—when you have fixed overheads, if you give people 20% capacity allowances, it doesn’t even make sense to stay open. Right? So they had, literally, no true way of getting cash flow in.

The Paycheck Protection Program was a huge, huge benefit for a lot of these companies. As you know, there was the Restaurant Revitalization Fund that was out there. But then for some reason, somebody decided that it was great just to isolate it to black business owners, black restaurant owners, which makes no sense whatsoever. I mean, they are hurt just as equally as whites, as Asians, as Hispanics. We needed to have that open to any small business owner.

And that’s the one thing, if I can also say, I mean, our advocacy work isn’t just focused on Republican small business owners, for example, or conservative small business owners.

If you’re Republican, independent, Democrat, black, yellow, white, green, blue, I don’t really care, we’re going to advocate for you, because really, we need that advocacy work for our small businesses across the country. They’re really the life of our communities. They’re the heartbeat of our communities and collectively, the heartbeat of our country. And so without small businesses, we don’t have a country.

Blair: Right. You mentioned a little bit, at the beginning, that small businesses were starting to recover from these COVID restrictions. And then, things like we were discussing before the show started, the idea that we’re going to charge $70,000, $700,000 in a new fine scheme to mandate COVID vaccines. Did we find that these economic issues that were being caused by COVID were more COVID-related or did we find that they were actually more government mandate-related?

Ortiz: Well, I mean, you just have to compare the red states versus the blue states, probably, to answer that question. The same COVID existed across the country. It wasn’t like there were two different types of COVIDs, one in blue states, one in the red states. Red state governors seemed to have figured out how to be able to balance public health with the health of their economy, versus the blue states.

I still believe the numbers look like unemployment rates are double in blue states as they are in the red states, that’s because they were able to balance. Obviously, famously, we know what Florida’s done [and] Georgia, Texas in terms of finding that right balance of public health and, again, the health of their businesses. You can’t have one without the other.

If all of our small businesses, for example, die because of government regulations, well, guess what? Then people are out of work.

And let’s take a look at mental health now in this country, caused by a lot of that. Suicide rates are at the highest levels they’ve probably ever been. Prescriptions for anti-anxiety and depression medicines are at the highest levels. I mean, now we’ve got a mental health crisis caused by a lot of [those] government mandates.

So, a lot of those issues were COVID, but I think that they were also man-made in the sense that they came because of government overreach and government overregulation. Again, I think the Democrats, in particular, love crises and they like capitalizing on a crisis. And I think we saw that happen.

Blair: The famous phrase “Never let a good crisis go waste” comes to mind.

In terms of other crises and other things that are affecting our economic health as Americans, I wanted to talk to you a little bit about inflation. It’s been in the news quite a bit recently that inflation is at levels that are relatively unprecedented throughout our history. Could you go into a little detail about maybe what some of the root causes of this current inflation crisis are?

Ortiz: Sure, sure. Well, I mean, obviously, a lot of it was caused, you know, coming from COVID, supply chain issues are a real, real issue. Some of it caused because of trade imbalances between China and stuff like that. But I think a lot of it is also because of the labor shortage caused by some of the unemployment benefits and the extra unemployment benefits that are put out there.

Truckers, for example, they’re in record demand, you can’t find truckers right now, which means that the trucks are sitting there. And if trucks are sitting there, guess what’s not moving? Goods and services. Right? Or goods, in particular, they’re still sitting at the ports. So this is a major issue for a lot of these small businesses and just businesses in general, from an economy standpoint.

But the Biden inflation that we’re experiencing here is real. We called it out very early on. We called it Jimmy Carter 2.0 because a lot of the things that were under the Carter administration are really starting to come again full circle under the Biden administration. So we’re very concerned about that.

And it’s funny because, if you just think of two months ago, three months ago, you had Jerome Powell saying, “This is just a transitory inflation.” … Guess what he just said yesterday? “Well, maybe it’s going to be here a little bit longer.” Well, no crap. I mean, when you’re spending $9, $10, $11 trillion on the economy, dumping money and printing money that the government doesn’t have, I think we’re going to be at a $32 trillion debt—I mean, it’s just ridiculous, right?

Blair: Sure.

Ortiz: And so, when you spend that kind of money, there’s no doubt that you’re going to have inflation. I actually believe inflation may hit as high as 9% to 10% by year-end.

Blair: Oh my. Well, let’s hope not.

Ortiz: Yes.

Blair: But as economically not super-advanced as I am, I do know one thing: I think the common knowledge is that when you are in a period of heavy inflation, you shouldn’t just spend money recklessly, which appears to be what the current congressional Democratic plan for a $3.5 trillion spending package would be. I’m just curious, what is in this package that could just boost the price tag to that point?

Ortiz: Yeah. Well, first, let me back up too and say this: The Democrats, no surprise, chose [Treasury Secretary Janet] Yellen for a reason … because she was a firm believer in this idea of modern monetary theory, which is basically, you don’t have to worry about debt and deficits. You can go ahead and spend on social programs, and you don’t have to really worry about debt and deficits.

And this is really the mentality, a lot of it led by the progressives on the left, [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez], for example, being one of those. But, it’s that embracing of that philosophy, from an economic theory that’s completely flawed, first of all. Of course, you’re going to have inflation. You’re already seeing the 10-year Treasury yields are already over 1.5 points already, and they will continue to rise because, again, inflation is going to keep on going.

But when you look at the spending bill now that’s on the table, which is not only $3.5 trillion—I mean, let’s be very clear about that. They have accounting gimmicks that are making that, the $3.5 trillion.

They have things that are sunsetting at the seven-year mark, for example, social programs. I mean, I’m sorry, list to me, tell me one social program in this country that was passed that seven years later is just going to be recalled. It’s not going to happen, right? These are programs that would be put there forever, social spending programs, like free community college, pre-K tuition paid for. I mean, you’re never going to pull those back. So the price tag is really something more like $5.5 trillion.

But again, when you look at this, very little of that bill is spent on anything related to infrastructure, building our country back. I mean, these are truly what I call “the Christmas tree list of the socialists.” Climate change being a big one of them that is driving that price tag.

And again, thank goodness there’s at least one adult, maybe two adults, in the room—[Sen. Joe] Manchin, of course, being one of them, but then [Sen.] Kyrsten Sinema, out in Arizona—that are acting as adults and saying, “This is going to hurt our country. It’s not going to help it. And we don’t really need this right now.”

I mean, that’s the biggest problem, is, we don’t need it. They’re just taking the opportunity, while they control all the purse strings, to get it done. Not because of a need, but it’s because of something they’ve always wanted to get done.

Blair: Right. Now, the common refrain amongst the radical left here is that you just tax the rich, of course, to pay for these programs. I mean, that doesn’t work, right?

Ortiz: No, of course not. I mean, you could tax 100%, the top 1% at 100%, and it’s a fraction of what’s needed. And those are, supposedly, the rich.

[President Joe] Biden said, “Don’t worry, we’re not going to tax anybody under $400,000.” Well, we know that’s not going to be true either, because all taxes roll downhill, first and foremost.

And you saw the White House press secretary say that, “We are very upset with this idea that corporations are saying that they’re just going to pass these taxes onto Americans. We think that’s just not right.” Well, that is the way the economy actually works. And if they actually ran a business at any point in time, you actually realize that you’re not running it as a Goodwill business, right? It’s a for-profit business.

And only the government thinks that way, right? Because only the government doesn’t have to worry about their spending. I ran two small businesses. Guess what? If I was paying out more than I was paying in, I’m out of business, period.

It’s not an issue of not being a good citizen. It’s just an issue of basic economics, dollars and cents. And unfortunately, these guys don’t understand that. So, this idea of taxing the rich, it’s just the most ridiculous thing. It’s really taxing success.

Again, I mentioned, I had two small businesses myself, and I have to tell you, I don’t think I would have taken the chance on it if I thought I was going to be capped on my success.

If you think about it, if you’re willing to put everything on the line for an idea that you have, which is, first of all, the beauty of this country is that you can do that. But, if you’re willing to mortgage your house, you’re taking lines of credit out, you’re taking cash advances on your credit card, because you have an idea and you believe in it, and you believe in yourself, and you want to pursue it, shouldn’t you have unlimited upside … if you’re willing to do that, something that not many people are willing to do? Right?

But if you didn’t have those entrepreneurs—I mean, last time I checked, Microsoft started off as a small business. Apple started off as a small business. Right? Any large business out there starts off as a small business. So if we don’t allow people to have that idea that they can have unlimited success if they believe in themselves and believe in our country, and that this country will help them succeed, no one’s going to take the chance anymore and we’re not going to have an America that we believe in anymore.

Blair: Absolutely. Well, Alfredo, we are running a little bit low on time, but I wanted to get your perspective on one last question. It seems like we’ve discussed that there is economic turmoil in the United States right now, that American’s economic health is not where it needs to be. What are some policies that we could maybe put on the table to get things back on track?

Ortiz: Well, helping small businesses would be one of the best things you can do. We know that just pre-COVID, two-thirds of new job growth was in the hands of small business. So we know how important small businesses are. So policies that will really help small businesses, I think, will be a big, big step in the right direction.

Really understand that you do have to worry about debt and deficits, I think, is a really, really important step. And look, in this particular case, Republicans probably, may be just as guilty, maybe not quite as guilty, but are also guilty in part of this process of spending more than we can make. I’ve always said, why not have kind of zero-base budgeting and make that part of an amendment where we actually really have to worry about that and really have to think through all the spending that we have?

I’m sure you do this—you’ve got a checkbook, I’ve got a checkbook. I don’t write checks more than what I have in my checking account. Right? I mean … it’s that simple. And you can only take out so much credit before you can’t pay for it.

So, I think that’s another just smart thing to do for our country and as for policy. And then, social programs are great. There are people that need help. But I think, when you look at the laundry list of things that the Democrats are putting out right now, we should really go through, and think through, which one of those are really, really necessary.

Right now, we have probably one of the most polarized political systems I’ve seen in my lifetime. And it sure would be nice if we can get to the point where we can sit down at a table and, as a collective body, think through what’s really in the best interest of this country to move it forward. Unfortunately, people are just so polarized right now that it’s hard to do that.

Those are my quick thoughts.

Blair: That’s good. Well, I don’t want to let people go before they know a little bit more about you. So if they want to learn more about what you guys are doing, the lawsuit, some of your policies that might help small businesses, where should they go?

Ortiz: Pretty easy: And if they’re interested in what we’re doing, it’s even easier, it’s I think folks will love what we’re doing, whether you’re a small business owner, whether you’re an employee of a small business owner, or you just like supporting small businesses, we encourage people to do that. We’ve got a growing, growing membership base, and it seems to be with every day that the Biden administration does something kind of dumb, which seems to be every day, our base keeps growing. So we’re excited about that. And we would love for more and more people to listen to this message.

Blair: Awesome. Well, I’m very glad to have you on the show and I’m glad that you guys are doing well.

Ortiz: Great. Thank you.

Blair: That was Alfredo Ortiz, president and CEO at Job Creators Network, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for pro-small business policies. Alfredo, thanks again for joining us on the show.

Ortiz: Great. Thank you so much.

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