To help you make an informed decision in the presidential election, CBS News is devoting a large part of our broadcasts until Nov. 4 to telling you where the candidates stand on major issues - from the war in Iraq to health insurance to education … and a lot more. Each piece will be an in-depth look at the issues facing the 44th president. In this installment, CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes reports on how the proposed policies of Barack Obama and John McCain to help small businesses would affect you and your community.
For 27 years, they've been gliding through the canals of Naples Island in Long Beach, Calif.
Michael O'Toole, who owns the Gondola Getaway there has 17 part-time workers and four full-time employees.
"We take them out for an hour with a gondolier rowing them. Sort of romantic adventure," O'Toole said.
But it's a rough ride for O'Toole's business during these hard economic times.
And across the country, small-business owners fear being swamped by the credit crunch, rising healthcare costs and taxes.
"It's hard to operate the business while trying to deal with the regulation side at all times and all the taxes that come with it," O'Toole said.
On top of that, the credit crunch hit in the middle of O'Toole's expansion to a second location. Loans suddenly dried up.
Nationwide, 28,000 fewer small business loans have been approved this year. And 67 percent of small-business owners surveyed recently said they've been impacted by the credit crunch.
It's a complaint stretching from California's ocean to its fertile fields.
Mark Murai is a third-generation strawberry grower in California.
He expanded his family farm operation with new strawberry processing plants. Now, he's concerned about the credit crisis.
"When we don't have a good credit line ... some of these unexpected costs hit us. You're going to see businesses closing down," Murai said.
Another worry that keeps Murai up at night is paying for healthcare for his 30 full-time employees, whom he considers like family.
"Does it ever get to a point that you think, 'next year I might not be able to afford health care' for your workers?" Hughes asked.
"I think we look at it more than every year - every month when the premiums come," Murai said.
In fact, small business organizers say paying for employee health care has been the top concern of their members for years - just recently surpassed by fears about the economic crisis.
So, where do the candidates stand on the issues of taxes, the credit crunch and healthcare?
First, on taxes: Experts say at least three out of four small businesses pay taxes through the owner's personal income tax.
Under a Barack Obama administration, couples who make less than $250,000 will either see taxes stay the same - or drop. For those making more, taxes will go up.
Under McCain, there would be no changes to the current tax structure. For the small remaining group of businesses that file corporate taxes, Obama proposes leaving the corporate tax rate at 35 percent. McCain would drop it to 25 percent.
"Cutting the second-highest business tax rate in the world will help American companies compete," McCain said.
In terms of the credit crunch, both candidates supported the government bailout that intended to make credit more readily available.
Even before the recent crisis, Obama said he would help small business raise money by giving incentives to investors.
"I will eliminate capital gains taxes for small business ... that's how we will grow our economy," he said.
McCain proposes helping small businesses invest in themselves by giving tax breaks for equipment and technology.
On healthcare, Obama says he will create a national health insurance network. Large companies would be obligated to pay into it to help defray the cost.
McCain would provide a $2,500 tax credit for individuals to go into the market and buy insurance.
Already burdened by what he calls "too many taxes," the seaside entrepreneur bristles at Obama's tax plans.
"Well once again we're right back to the same problem of those let's make if the business is doing good, let's make them pay," O'Toole said. "And ultimately, that's gonna put people out of business."
The farmer sees it the same way.
"When you get to a certain level and you're penalized, I think you lose a little bit of hope," Murai said.
He says he's reluctantly in favor of the government bailout to free up frozen credit and save small businesses.
O'Toole says he's not sure what the bailout will bring, but says something needs fixing in Washington.
"If we're the engine running the country, we need a new mechanic," he said.
What about healthcare?
O'Toole doesn't provide healthcare to his part-time workers; it's too expensive.
He likes Obama's plan, if bigger companies foot the bill.
For Murai, McCain's plan sounds like a wash - without an advantage to employee or business owner. As for Obama's government network …
"Sounds like a bureaucracy. Sounds like something big that's uncontrollable," he said.
Both of the business-owners say this couldn't be a more critical time for small businesses and they hope the next president listens to their needs.
"All we need is an opportunity to succeed," Murai said.
Copyright 2008 CBS. All rights reserved.