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The Obama Effect

In the weeks that followed the so-called longest presidential election in history, music product retailers expressed hopes that the election’s end would restore some degree of consumer confidence and that President-elect Barack Obama would support music education.

“We’ve been hearing bad news for two years, depressing news for six months and that the sky is falling for three,” said Grant Billings, owner of Steinway Piano Gallery in Madison, Wis. “On [election] night, I heard our next president tell the world that he believes in us — that there’s a lot of work to do but that things will get better.”

“Presidential election cycles are rarely good for businesses no matter which party wins,” said Peter Sides, president of Pennsylvania-based Robert M Sides Family Music Center.

“Political certainty will bring some sense of stability to the financial markets,” said Karen Kerrigan, president of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, a Washington, D.C.-based lobby group, in an interview with Inc. magazine. “A rest from the severe market turbulence will likely ease consumer and investor anxiety to a certain extent. This is a welcome break for entrepreneurs.”

However, Kerrigan cautioned that complete market confidence will not happen overnight.

Small Business, Health Care
During his campaign, Obama pledged to cut taxes for small businesses earning less than $250,000 after expenses, while raising taxes on capital gains and dividend income among wealthier Americans. He also proposed exempting start-up and small businesses from paying capital gains taxes and lowering the tax rate for the self-employed.

“I think Obama is well-educated and will support music education in schools because he understands the benefits,” said Clint Strait of Strait Music in Austin, Texas. “I hope he doesn’t raise taxes on small businesses or force all health care costs on employers. Being a family business, we hope he doesn’t do away with estate tax exemptions or raise tax rates.”

To address health care costs, Obama’s plan will not require small businesses to offer health insurance to employees. Instead, there will be incentives to provide health care. A small business health tax credit would provide a refundable credit of up to 50 percent on premiums paid by small businesses on behalf of their employees.

Music Ed Support
On Oct. 24, at the annual Council of the Great City Schools of Houston, Obama’s spokesman Jonathan Schnur said the president-elect has made supporting music and arts education “a big priority.”

“He is concerned that, as crucial as it is to raise math and reading and writing achievement, that a focus in the arts and music actually can be used as a lever to drive [those skills], as well as to drive a broader kind of creativity in learning, which is so critical to driving 21st century skills,” Schnur said.

He added that Obama has called for a greater investment in the teaching profession.

“My sense of him is that he’ll hit the ground running, and the fresh face, new attitude and clean start will bring retail up,” said John Giovannoni, co-owner of The Music Room in Palatine, Ill.