Earlier this year, major corporations like General Motors, Bank of America and Citigroup received federal dollars—taxpayer money—to keep their operations afloat. Despite public outcries of corporate excess and financial mismanagement leading the entities to the mess they were in, the government followed through with these bailouts because it was the right thing to do for the nation’s economy. In the midst of all this, we’ve heard very little about small businesses, which are the backbone of the American economy. This recession has affected them, too. And it’s time we turn our attention in their direction.
Small businesses keep America strong, financially. During good economic times, these businesses are responsible for more than 70 percent of all new jobs created. Additionally, a larger percentage of Americans work for small or mid-size businesses than major corporations. Yet, during tough financial times, such as the one we are currently in, these businesses can be hit so hard that they are forced to shut down.
For decades, Democrats and Republicans have sung the praises of small businesses. After all, what says “American Values” more than an entrepreneur working and saving so that they can open their own company? Singing the praises of these businesses and valuing them enough to make sure they are supported are two very different things. Finally, our elected officials are stepping up and working to assist and protect small businesses. President Obama would like to increase the amount of Small Business Administration loans. Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, wants to create a $50 billion loan fund for small businesses. Both men are working within their parties to build support for the initiatives and to create a strategy for bringing them to life.
This is a start. Other elected officials must take an active role and support both plans. But they must also create support networks for those small businesses just starting out. And they should encourage, even in these economic times, more Americans to pursue entrepreneurship. From providing financial assistance to funding classes that help business owners learn all they need to make their venture a success, the government should support small business. After all, it has a vested interest in making sure they succeed.
(Judge Greg Mathis is vice president of Rainbow PUSH and a national board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.)