Racism and the Small Business Jobs Act

Posted: Aug 02, 2010 12:01 AM
Racism and the Small Business Jobs Act

The Small Business Jobs Act is DOA, and that might be a good development since a disturbing racial and ethnic assumption was hidden deep within the legislation.

The Small Business Jobs legislation (Sec. 3103.d.7) required lending institutions to “provide linguistically and culturally appropriate” advertising to entice small business owners to enter into loan agreements with government certified lending institutions. 

How odd!

Democrats in congress seemed to think that entrepreneurs and business owners only will accept access to capital if the offer is presented in congress’ view of what is “culturally appropriate.”  How little congress understands about entrepreneurship, small business ownership and the capital requirements of organizational sustainability and job creation!

Nor did the legislation explain how the determination of “culturally appropriate” is to be achieved.  The extent that financial institutions should attempt to reach “linguistically” appropriate advertising was also unspecified. 

Clearly, Spanish might be required for the large Spanish-speaking population of entrepreneurs in the U.S. which comprise 40% of small businesses.  Perhaps Ebonics for the African-Americans who comprise 28% of small business owners?  What about Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese?  Asian businesses have grown to 28%.  But, if Congress were to be fair and unbiased, then should financial institutions also consider advertising in Hindi, and Arabic?  What about Swedish or Polish or Russian or German? 

The problem with a requirement for “linguistically” appropriate bank loan advertising is that it ignores two important facts.  First, America is and should remain the “melting pot” of the world, where English remains our primary language and this shared language remains the primary way that most immigrants assimilate American life.  Second, small businesses truly invested in growing and succeeding are “post-racial” entities. 

Business owners are concerned with innovation, competitiveness, hiring talented employees, producing salable goods and services, achieving financial stability and ultimately making a profit.  These goals transcend race or ethnicity. Capital is the universal language that all businesses understand.

Who will be the arbiter of what is, or is not, “linguistically or culturally appropriate”?  And, how will congress prevent accusations of “racism” each time a small business owner isn’t approved for a loan?

Congress has implied that there is a “cultural” feel to a Hispanic or an African-American or Korean business.  The legislation smacks of “soft bigotry” and advances an erroneous notion that all members of the same race or all members of a particular ethnic group share an identical cultural aesthetic.  How narrow-minded.  How potentially racist.

Few in Congress have experienced, first-hand, the struggles of entrepreneurship and even fewer understand what it takes to be competitive and succeed. The Small Business Jobs legislation had little to do with providing real assistance that could produce measurable results and instead is almost 250 pages of political pork and racial and ethnic condescension.

Many of the kinds of changes that are desperately need, such as freeing up capital or reform of small business government contracting, are tangled up in a proliferation of pork projects and an explosive growth in the size of government.  American taxpayers will pay a high cost for legislation of this type with little ability to measure success.  The small business community faces many obstacles, but this legislation was not the panacea to those problems.

Generations of entrepreneurs have helped to make this country into a financial and political powerhouse that is the envy of the world.  Entrepreneurship is too critical to our nation’s success for congress to wallow in the shallow complacency of narrow-minded, racist assumptions that “cultural appropriateness” is needed to increase small business lending. 

Legislation that tries to pigeon-hole the potential of businesses based on ethnic, gender or racial is legislation that Americans don’t need.