President Barack Obama turned the
spotlight to his small business agenda Friday, urging congressional passage of
legislation meant to boost federal assistance to a key segment of the economy.
Among the proposals highlighted by
the administration is a $30 billion government lending program offering capital
to community banks that boost their small-business lending. Banks with assets
worth less than $10 billion would be able to borrow money from the Treasury at
a dividend rate as low as 1 percent provided they use the cash to make more
small-business loans this year than they did in 2009.
Other proposals being pushed by the
president include an elimination of capital gains taxes on certain small
“Ensuring that small
businesses can thrive is about more than our economic success,” Obama said
at the White House after a meeting with small business leaders. “It’s
about who we are as a people. It’s about a nation where anybody with a good
idea and a willingness to work can succeed. That’s the promise of America.”
Legislation enacted in March
included new business tax credits for hiring additional workers, as well as a
measure allowing companies to write off, instead of depreciate, new equipment.
Many small businesses, however, are
still struggling to regain their footing in the wake of the recent recession.
The Commerce Department reported Friday that retail sales fell for the first
time in eight months in May, widely missing analyst expectations.
Total retail sales fell 1.2 percent
to $362.5 billion last month, compared with April’s upwardly revised 0.6
percent increase. It was first decline since last September, when retail sales
fell 2.3 percent.
Data from the Small Business
Administration (SBA) show that small companies have generated 64 percent of the
net new jobs every year over the past 15 years. Those businesses, however, were
particularly hard hit by the economic downturn. A Senate report last year found
that American businesses with fewer than 20 employees have suffered steeper job
losses than larger companies.