By Lloyd Chapman
President, American Small Business League
When I watch the news on network and cable television channels the stories about business are overwhelmingly focused on Fortune 500 firms and Wall Street. Yet, when the commercials come on, they are directed to the general public and small business owners, not Fortune 500 executives. Commercials targeted at small business owners are becoming more common. Does the phrase, “I don’t have a small business, I have a fast business,” sound familiar? It seems advertisers on major television networks have figured out something news producers haven’t. The majority of American television viewers work for small businesses, not big businesses.
I have seen countless stories on television covering the recession, the economy and government programs designed to rescue our nation’s failing economy. I do not recall ever seeing a single story that reported over 50 percent of the private sector workforce is employed by small businesses. I have never seen a story that reported over 50 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is created by small businesses, and that those firms are responsible for over 97 percent of all net new jobs in America.
It is rare to see stories on small business issues in major newspapers. It is extremely rare to see a story about small business issues on the front page of a major newspaper. One international journalist told me, “if you want to put your editor to sleep, pitch a story about small business issues.”
The fact that small businesses have been shortchanged in the national media could even be a contributing factor in the failure of federal government economic stimulus plans to focus attention on small businesses.
Of the approximately $2.8 trillion that has been spent to stimulate the national economy, to date, less than 1 percent has been specifically directed to small businesses. President Barack Obama has promised to create up to 4.1 million jobs, and yet the small businesses that create over 97 percent of all net new jobs have been virtually ignored by federal economic stimulus plans. The funds that have been allocated specifically to small businesses seem to have been done more as a public relations tactic than an attempt to genuinely create jobs and boost our nation’s failing economy.
To put things into perspective, President Obama’s ARC loan program would give qualifying small businesses interest free $35,000 loans. Sounds great until you read the very, very fine print and discover that the program is caped at $255 million, which is roughly one tenth of one percent (0.1 percent) of the overall stimulus funds. The $25 billion JPMorgan Chase received from the federal government was more than all 27 million American small businesses combined. Maybe the fact that Goldman Sacks just reported $3.44 billion in quarterly profits while national unemployment heads to 10 percent might be a clue to President Obama that more stimulus funds should have been allocated to small businesses.
Anyone who has ever read anything I have written knows that my mission in life is to stop the federal government from giving over $100 billion a year in small business contracts to Fortune 500 firms and thousands of other large businesses around the world. An end to that problem would direct more money back into the middle class economy than any economic stimulus plan that has been proposed by anyone in Washington to date.
My fantasy is to have just one mainstream journalist ask President Obama why his Administration is giving billions of dollars a month in federal small business contracts to Fortune 500 firms, or why less than 1 percent of the economic stimulus funds have been allocated to small businesses.
Producers for network and cable television stations, and editors for major newspapers and magazines should consider the impact it could have on their bottom line if they were to focus more on the 27 million small businesses where most of their viewers and readers are employed. What would be the impact on our national economy if the mainstream media began to question the logic of giving billions of dollars in federal small business contracts to Fortune 500 firms? Or allocating less than 1 percent of the economic stimulus funds to the firms that are responsible for 50 percent of the GDP and over 97 percent of all net new jobs?
One question in a White House press conference, one front-page newspaper story, or one investigative report on national television could have a dramatic impact on if and when the U.S. economy fully recovers. Sounds like big news to me.
American Small Business League