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Carly Fiorina’s cancer battle makes me confident she can heal Washington

Cynthia DiBartolo

Dial back the clock to 2009, when I heard my doctor tell me that I had head and neck cancer. The diagnosis was brutal. “It’s aggressive, and without surgery you have less than a year. Surgery may save your life, but it will significantly and permanently impact your ability to speak, swallow and eat.”

I was paralyzed with fear. Within weeks of hearing the diagnosis, I underwent unthinkable, life-threatening surgical procedures, and found myself suddenly disabled.

My mind started to uncontrollably project my future: coping with the physical deformities of surgery, and the grueling therapies to learn to speak again. And what would become of my decades-long career at Citibank?

It came to an abrupt end. For the next two years, I communicated largely by writing on a small board, and was committed to hours of speech pathology.

But I was determined to seize my life back. I reasoned that cancer took my tongue, my career—but it did not take my education, experience or tenacity. I opened my own woman-owned and -operated broker dealer and investment bank, which is committed to diversity and sensitive to people with disabilities. It’s called Tigress Financial Partners. The name Tigress was intentional—it means “strong female.”

Today, I am committed to paying it forward. I proudly serve as the chairperson of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, representing over 30,000 business and civic leaders.

This is why I can relate to Carly Fiorina. She, too, in 2009, faced tragedy. She was diagnosed with breast cancer just before her run for a California U.S. Senate seat against incumbent Barbara Boxer. Then, just months later, she lost her stepdaughter Lori to addiction.

Despite this devastation, she navigated through those difficulties, and today is a serious contender for president of the United States.

Beyond surviving cancer and being resilient women, Carly and I share much more. A small business owner myself, I have been won over by Carly’s defense of American small businesses—she’s protecting the very thing that gave me my life back.

Carly understands the role of small businesses in our economy and our culture. They are the undisputed backbone of this country. In fact, two-thirds of all new jobs in this country are created by small businesses.

They nurture the values, work ethic and innovative spirit our nation was founded upon. But right now, our federal government is a cancer on small businesses: a catastrophic attack on half the country’s private-sector workers, or about 28 million small businesses.

Carly Fiorina has outlined a clear path for the revitalization of the American economy. The first matter to address: crony capitalism.

Crony capitalism destroys the competition—undermining the small, the weak, the community businesses that have no representation in Washington. There’s a problem when big government works for big business: the powerful, the wealthy and the well-connected.

Carly often cites the Dodd-Frank law as a prime example of cronyism. Democrats bolstered “too big to fail” banks by levying compliance regulations on the banking industry. However, it is almost impossible for community banks to conform to regulations designed for big banks. In the past decade, 1,500 of them have been destroyed.

Since Dodd-Frank, we’ve seen community banks close their doors as regulation costs have become too heavy to bear. Big banks were able to absorb the blow Washington doled out, but the small community banks buckled, crushed by new rules and excessive red tape. This critically impacted small businesses that now lacked the access to capital they so desperately needed to be sustainable.

Carly has a guileless solution: Simplify the tax code to three pages. That way, all businesses, large and small, compete on an equal playing field, with no team of lawyers or extensive lobbying operations necessary. Instead, everyone will have a simple-to-understand tax code that will enable them to focus on what matters: growing business, creating jobs and strengthening our economy.

Carly will also protect small businesses from Democratic attacks on capitalism, attacks often aimed at giant corporations. The irony is that giant corporations can absorb the high taxes; small businesses can’t. In the end, Main Street loses, Wall Street wins.

Other candidates may give small businesses lip service, but I fully trust that Carly will take charge and put policies in place that get our economy growing again. Carly Fiorina’s career began at a small business, and this just might lead her to the Oval Office.

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