Small business key to recovery

by Duane Johnson - University graduate student

As President Barack Obama diligently works to curb high unemployment rates, the Republicans would rather put party before country and eulogize the Obama presidency. Somehow the Republicans have forgotten that they were the pied pipers that led our economy into a perilous state by initiating two wars and passing policies that benefited Wall Street. 

On the other side of the aisle, the Congressional Black Caucus continues to harangue the president about the 16 percent unemployment rate within the African-American community.  Somehow the CBC has forgotten that high unemployment within their districts existed long before Obama took office, partly due to their failure to pass policies that would have closed the achievement gap. 

Despite his criticsâÄô apathy and their lack of leadership, the president has asked them to partner with him in creating policies that would benefit small businesses across America. 

Small businesses are a key factor to our economic recovery âÄî they provide 70 percent of new jobs each quarter. Both Republicans and the CBC agree that small businesses play a major role in spurring economic growth in our country. They create two out of three private sector jobs in the economy. 

One effective way in which Congress can assist small businesses is by funding the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  Congress has cut nearly $1 billion from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over the last 20 years. This cut in the agencyâÄôs funding has created a backlog of over 1 million unreviewed applications. This has stalled the process for a number of budding inventors who depend on receiving patents to launch their products.

ObamaâÄôs critics should be pushing legislation that would revitalize the patent office and create policies that would provide more tax incentives for small businesses in America.  This would put a dent in our rising unemployment rate. 

Another strategic approach in lowering unemployment, particularly in the African-American community, is by cultivating the small businesses that are prospering there. The U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau reported that there was a 60 percent increase in African- American-owned firms in the U.S. between 2002 and 2007. African American-owned businesses now account for nearly 2 million firms in the United States. 

But the CBC would rather embark on a rhetorical âÄúpoverty tourâÄù than call for a national campaign that would support and sustain the wealth of minority-owned businesses through these fragile economic times. By facilitating growth and support for small businesses in the African-American community, it could start providing jobs for the unemployed, lower the crime rates in inner cities and groom the next generation of minority entrepreneurs. 

These low-hanging fruits should move the CBC and African-American leaders to nurture the burgeoning $1 trillion economic buying power of the African-American community. Assistance for small businesses must be a top agenda item for both Republicans and Democrats. The president cannot continue to do this alone. 

After months of Republicans blocking its passage, the president finally signed the Small Business Jobs Act that made it possible for small businesses to acquire more favorable loans and better tax breaks that will generate jobs.  Earlier this summer, the White House convened an Urban Entrepreneur Summit at Rutgers Business School that provided valuable resources for minority-owned businesses to create public-private partnerships.  And recently, Obama appointed Alan Krueger, an expert on labor economics who specializes in unemployment, to head his Council of Economic Advisers.   

Clearly, this shows that Obama has planted the seeds for small businesses to succeed. Now our Congressional leaders must till the soil by passing effective legislation that would put us on the road toward economic recovery. That road goes through Main Street America because âÄúsmall corporations are peopleâÄù too.