Small Businesses Defy Chamber, Support Financial Reform

Isaiah J. Poole

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is spending millions of dollars in an over-the-top campaign to turn small business owners against strong financial reforms in general and the creation of a consumer financial protection agency in particular, But one poll indicates that the entrepreneurs the campaign is targeting aren’t buying it.

The Main Street Alliance, a coalition of business owners in 15 states, released a poll of more than 1,200 small business owners in late January in which 69 percent of the business owners polled said they supported Congress passing “strong financial reforms” and another 67 percent said they supported the creation of a financial consumer protection agency.

Only 18 percent of the small business owners in the survey agreed with the Chamber of Commerce position, that “Congress should avoid overreacting to the financial crisis and avoid sweeping reforms. Too many regulations would stifle business growth and threaten our recovery.”

Jeanne Boisineau, who runs a video casting agency in Richmond, Va., sees the need for the finds of financial reforms being sought by the Obama administration first-hand. Her business is among a number of small media-related firms that operate out of the Superior Production Exchange. These firms find it difficult to get loans from the banks that the federal government bailed out during the Wall Street financial crisis, even though “they have a great business model, they have a great track record.” The help these banks have received from Washington, she said, “is not trickling down to any of us.”

When asked about claims from the national Chamber that increased financial regulation will backfire on small business owners like her, she said, “We’ve seen how deregulation works, and they’ve screwed everyone but the large corporations.”

In fact, with regard to the creation of a consumer financial protection agency, which the Chamber says “could deny the credit that garage-based entrepreneurs need to create the next Apple® or Hewlett Packard®,” 61 percent of the participants in the poll said that the agency would in fact “help small businesses by ensuring access to credit on
fair terms and making sure all lenders are playing by the same rules.” Only 13 percent accepted the Chamber position that it would “hurt small businesses by limiting access to the widest array of credit options and applying a “one-size-fits-all” approach to oversight of lenders.”

When it comes to out-of-touch Washington institutions, on the issue of financial reform and what small businesses want to see happen on Wall Street, the Chamber of Commerce is leading the pack.

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