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Stand with consumers and small business on swipe-fee reforms

It is interesting to watch some in Washington who run on a mantle of being “pro-business” standing starkly against small business and on the side of big bailed-out banks. Perhaps as early as this afternoon, our U.S. senators will either cast a vote for small business or for government-bailed-out banks.

We are a group of small business owners — Republicans and Democrats, rural and urban — who will be watching closely. With that written, it is heartening to see Minnesota’s two senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, seemingly set to stand with Main Street small business. We’d like to thank them in advance for voting against the so-called “Tester Amendment,” and ask that they stand strong against immense pressure.

For years, small business owners across the state have been fighting against soaring debit and credit card swipe fees, enjoying a break here and there, and then witnessing major setbacks. As small business owners, we can go out into the market for the products we sell and the fixtures in our establishments. But there is no market for swipe fees. The big banks have a monopoly, and small business and consumers pay.

Given that these fees have increased at a more rapid rate than health-care costs, swipe fees have become — for many small business owners — the highest cost behind payroll. As a result, they act as impediments to growth as small businesses owners are forced to increase prices rather than invest and create jobs.
 
Durbin sought to level the playing field
However, just when small business owners felt that their calls were going unheard, the United States Senate took action last May through an amendment by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. In his amendment, Durbin sought to level the playing field between Wall Street and America’s small businesses. Make no mistake about it, small business and consumers are willing to pay for the convenience of being able to pay with credit and debit cards. But for the first time with the protections implemented, small businesses would be allowed to offer discounts to consumers who opt to pay with a cheaper form of payment than a credit card. Greater choice and lower prices: Consumers win.
 
After Durbin proposed his amendment, the Senate voted to pass it in a bipartisan vote, 64-33. This was a major victory, especially with Sens. Klobuchar and Franken both supporting small business owners and siding with the majority. Within two months, the president would sign the amendment into law as part of his Wall Street Reform Bill.
 
Big banks mounted roll-back campaign
Having been bailed out by the taxpayer only a few years before, the big banks decided to mount a heavy campaign in order to roll back the very reforms that would benefit small businesses and consumers. That effort by the bailed-out banks is now coming to a head.

In the next 24 to 48 hours, senators will vote on a sham “study bill” (the “Tester Amendment), ironically tucked into a small business bill, which would essentially kill small business reforms. The vote to delay implementation of swipe-fee reforms would cost small businesses and consumers $33 million per day, $1 billion per month and nearly $14 billion every year.  

Swipe-fee reforms and the bipartisan support for the Durbin amendment were designed to foster an open market and protections against monopoly pricing for small business and consumers. We are a living, breathing, working example of the open market fostered by the bipartisan reforms. Any attempt at delay is tantamount to a complete rollback of these reforms. And we’d like to thank Sens. Klobuchar and Franken in advance for standing for business and job creation.

The authors are Michael Guest, Skylark Cleaners-Eco-Drycleaners, Twin Cities; Ed Fussy, Pimushe Resort, Bemidji; George Greene, The Greene Sheet, Brooklyn Park; Ben Kyriagis, small business owner, Plymouth; and Dave Thompson, Fisherman’s Village, Battle Lake.

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