Obama Wants To Help Small Business

    Washington….President Obama this morning urged passage of his proposals to stimulate hiring by small businesses through tax credits and lending incentives, arguing that similar measures are partly responsible for economic recovery over the last few months.

    Small businesses have historically been responsible for two out of every three new jobs created in the U.S., Obama said, and so must be a critical part of the economic recovery.

    “To replace the millions of jobs lost in the recession, we need to make sure small companies are able to open up, expand, and add names to their payrolls,” Obama told reporters gathered in the Rose Garden.

    But while Republicans in Congress agree with that idea, they don’t buy the president’s plans for stimulating private sector job creation. With critical mid-term elections looming this fall, GOP lawmakers are pushing instead for a reduction in federal spending to support long-term economic growth.

    The president’s remarks represent a renewed push within the administration to pass a key part of his economic program, at a time when their public focus has been riveted on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Even as that highly visible disaster unfolds on television, administration officials are working furiously behind the scenes with Democratic leaders in Congress to promote economic recovery.

    In the president’s estimation, the solution depends largely on his proposals to eliminate capital gains taxes for investments in small firms and provide tax relief to small start-up companies.

    To free up the flow of credit, the president also wants the federal government to help underwrite loans through community banks and help fund state-based programs to promote lending to small firms and manufacturers.

    Obama is also urging Congress to expand and extend some Small Business Administration programs that increase loan limits.

    “Government can’t create private-sector jobs,” Obama said, after a morning meeting with small business owners and employees at the White House. “But it can create the conditions for small business like those represented here to grow and hire more people. That’s what has guided much of our economic agenda.”

    But Republicans dispute the president’s basic premise. After a meeting between Obama and congressional leaders on Thursday, in which the president privately asked them to support his economic agenda, House Republican Leader John Boehner said that more government spending is not the answer to the nation’s problems.

    Boehner gave the president a document signed by more than a hundred economists, he said, urging both parties to cut spending now in order to boost private sector job creation.

    “Small business owners, like the folks at the White House today, understand that in tough economic times, a budget is more important, not less,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said after the president’s remarks. “How did the president explain to them that, for the first time, his party in Congress won’t even introduce a budget to cut spending and help create jobs?”

    The May jobs report showed far fewer new private sector jobs than had been previously anticipated, he noted. Speaking to reporters and business leaders this morning, Obama argued that recent history shows his plans are working.

    As a result of one new law enacted a few months ago, businesses are now eligible for tax cuts when they hire unemployed workers. Companies are also allowed to write off more of their investments in new equipment. Obama’s health care reform law also means many small business owners could soon be eligible for a health care tax credit.

    “These and other steps are making a difference,” Obama said. “Little more than a year ago, the economy was in freefall. Today, it’s growing again.”

    He asked that the House pass his pending small business measures next week and that the Senate follow suit as soon as possible, “with support from both Democrats and Republicans.”

    cparsons@tribune.com

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    Published on 12/06/2010 09:08:31