Wanted: Stimulus

Wanted: Stimulus

When President George W. Bush sets a goal he pulls out all the stops until it has been accomplished. But when it comes to providing assistance and relief to the nation’s small business owners, Democrats who sit on the House Small Business Committee say Bush’s trademark determination is nowhere to be found.

A report titled Broken Promises: The Stalled Agenda for American Small Business, put out by the House Small Business Committee Democrats, examines legislation regarding federal contracting, business growth and development, costs related to health care, pensions and taxes, and other issues that they believe Republicans have allowed to fall by the wayside. “This Congress started with so much potential: a president who claimed to be a small business owner and understand the plight of small business, and a Republican-led Congress that pledged to move a pro-small business agenda,” says Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), the committee’s ranking member. “Unfortunately, this Congress will go down as promising the most and delivering the least to small businesses.”

Access to capital is often the number one problem for many entrepreneurs. The Small Business Administration’s loan programs represent 40% of small business lending. But according to the report, the administration’s budget proposes to cut those programs in half, which will translate into a loss of almost 200,000 jobs nationwide. The report also charges that the Export-Import Bank has been favoring corporate America over small businesses. The Export-Import Bank is the chief U.S. government agency tasked with financing American exports by providing loan guarantees and insurance to commercial banks so the banks can make tax credit available to exporters. According to the report, more than 80% of Export-Import’s funds are distributed to Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing, General Electric, AT&T, and Motorola.

Republicans, however, refute the conclusion of the report which, among other things, claims the Bush administration chose to pursue pro-big business agendas over those favoring small enterprise. “We felt the session was very successful,” says Rich Carter, spokesperson for committee Chair Don Manzullo (R-Ill.), citing the tax relief act and the elimination of the death tax as moves that provided “tremendous relief for small businesses.” He does concede that there is much more to be done. “[Health care cost reduction] is high on the president’s list as well as the congressional leadership’s. It will be given major emphasis next year.”

Certain Republican-sponsored bills are more helpful to large corporations. Others, such as the Small Business Health Fairness Act and small business retirement savings amendments, have been stalled, according to Velázquez.

With the Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, the Democratic members of the House Small Business Committee may face continued frustration when pushing small business-related legislation.