Mr. BLUMENAUER. In meeting with hundreds of constituents and dozens of small business this summer, one theme emerges repeatedly: The price that American families and small business continue to pay for the near collapse of our economy.
Earlier this year, new examples emerged of manipulation that was harmful, and in some cases potentially illegal, by Wall Street in New York and Fleet Street in London. Financial interests continue their assault on even modest reforms in the Dodd-Frank financial legislation protections for consumers and for the financial system itself. Now, clearly, the elements are a little overly complex and not perfect, but, in part, that's the result of aggressive action from the industry itself assaulting the regulatory process.
On the campaign trail, Governor Romney and his running mate argue for less protection and a return to largely self-regulation of banks that nearly brought the global economy to its knees.
At the same time, the Republican Party's response to the challenges of the mountain of student debt is first to reduce the funding for Pell Grants that help make college more affordable for low-income students, and then they would help fewer student borrowers but help more bankers by giving the lending business back to the private sector--backed by a government guarantee, by the way. Hardly a free-market solution.
Governor Romney famously pointed out that if this doesn't work for you, you can always borrow from your parents. I think most people, not just Republicans or Democrats, Independents, believe that's not the solution. It's more of the problem, even for those students who have parents that could finance them.
There are things that we can do. We should, of course, fight to protect the reforms and the restraints on Wall Street and protect direct, lower-cost lending to college students, but we also might inject a little more competition into the financial marketplace.
Now, for millions of Americans, a little competition to the big banks comes from credit unions who are more on the scale of a community bank. Most are small to medium-sized, very local, and nonprofit, with a volunteer, membership board of directors.
That nonprofit status is important. They not only don't pay taxes; they're not paying dividends to stockholders or multimillion dollar bonuses to CEOs. They use that advantage to lower costs and improve service.
Credit unions are currently prohibited from lending more than 12.25 percent of their assets to business. Now legislation has been proposed to raise this lending cap to a little more than a quarter of the assets. That would be ideal for small business lending.
It wasn't the credit unions on Main Street that almost brought the economy to its knees; it was Wall Street gamblers and, too often, cheaters in the financial sector. They were skirting the law and, in some cases, breaking it. Maybe it's time that we give small businesses a boost by giving commercial banks a little competition.
I hope my colleagues will not just sponsor H.R. 1418, the Small Business Lending Enhancement Act of 2011, but also be an advocate. It will be a strong signal that we truly want competition in the financial arena, that actions have consequences, and small and emerging businesses are our priority. Let's give small business more choices for financing they need, and let's help credit unions get more capacity to meet that need.