BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Ms. CANTWELL. Madam President, I rise to join my colleague, the Senator from Louisiana, the Chair of the Small Business Committee, and my colleague from Oregon, Senator Merkley, to talk about the very important issue that, frankly, you could say you probably heard a lot about from us before we left. But along with my colleague, Senator Murray, and I am sure others, such as Senator Boxer, we all went home and heard from our constituents about this issue and we heard about how critical it is that we pass this legislation.
I find it interesting that the pundits are all debating whether this will have a political effect on the election. I can guarantee you the focus of this legislation has not been, for any of us, about the election but about helping small business. When Wall Street imploded nearly 2 years ago--2 years ago--is when small business needed our help and support, and many of us have been arguing literally this entire legislative calendar year to pass this legislation, only to have hurdle after hurdle put in front of us or naysayers who say it can't be done. So I truly hope we are on the precipice of passing this legislation because it is so critical for job creation in America.
I know my colleagues have gone over these numbers, but to be specific about it again one more time, because this is from the Department of Commerce, small businesses account for 60 to 75 percent of new job creation. So we can talk about all the ideas we want to have about how to get out of this economic nightmare, and we can talk about various policies that are going to help us stimulate the economy, but the bottom line is that job growth by the private sector is going to help our economy, and that has to have a focus on small business.
What has happened to us instead, as you can see by this chart, which shows small business lending basically from 2008 to 2009, is that we had an economic crisis. We know that lending in general went down, but we see that small business lending went down even more dramatically. The consequence of that has been our engine of economic growth for job creation--small business--has been cut off. We have seen lending from large banks to large institutions, and some of those institutions are doing the hiring, but they are not the basic driver of job growth in America. So this is what we are trying to right. We are trying to correct the fact that these small businesses have not had access to capital.
I know my colleague Senator Murray and I went to a restaurant in Seattle, a pizzeria that is very popular, and met with many small business people there. But this particular owner, Joe Fugere, who has a wonderful business, basically had opened four restaurants and then went to get more capital during this downturn and basically was told no, it is too big of a risk. He said:
Honestly, I was shocked and deeply offended. I had a healthy profitable business, a blemish-free history of paying all my loans on time, in full. And now I was being told that I was risky. .....
After the decisions that were made on Wall Street and their risky activity.
In the end, Joe did everything he could with personal appeals. He worked with community bankers, and finally got his loan and then opened his new restaurant which now employs 75 people.
Joe was not the risk. Joe did not participate in risky derivative activities on Wall Street. He did not cook up this scheme. Yet here we are, 2 years later, finally coming to the aid and support of small businesses.
I heard many stories of this when I was at home, many small businesses that basically said I hope people on the other side of the aisle can set aside their differences and help get this legislation passed; that we need to do more. I know many of you may have seen today the report that was put out by the Joint Economic Committee, ``Small Business Employment: Bank Lending Restrains Job Creation.'' Basically the summation of this, and I will read from the report, is that it found that as a result of ``tight lending standards facing small businesses, hiring at small firms continued to decline in 2009 and the early part of 2010, while hiring by largest establishments, which had wider access to credit, began to pick up. .....''
It is clear that small business hiring still remains flat. The question is what are we going to do about it? It is not about November 2, it is about whether you support giving access to capital to small businesses that had capital choked off from them because of the activities of Wall Street.
I clearly support and respect the engine of our economy that small businesses represent. I hope people will put their differences aside. I appreciate my colleague from Ohio, Senator Voinovich, for his leadership, for his advocacy, for listening to the facts on this issue and understanding that these are the people who will help us out of this situation and certainly were not the ones who got us into it.
I hope we will move forward on this legislation and this week we will pass it. I do not expect things to change overnight but I do expect this: for this Congress--for the Senate, for the House--to say where our priorities are and to say where leveraged access to capital can stimulate job growth in our economy.
I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT