Restoring Balance Between Wall Street and Main Street

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By Frank Knapp Jr.

The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce and small business organizations and owners across this country want Wall Street Reform. But you wouldn’t know that from the attention the media gives to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is the mouthpiece for the big financial institutions that oppose reform.

The U.S. Chamber purports to represent small businesses. However, the reality is quite different. The July/August edition of the Washington Monthly features an eye-opening story on Tom Donohue, the CEO of the U.S. Chamber, who has a plaque on his desk that reads, “SHOW ME THE MONEY.” In 2008, a third of the Chamber’s revenues came from just 19 big companies.

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When big oil, insurance and other companies are out of favor because of their greed, they turn to the U.S. Chamber to convince Congress and the public that the needed reforms are bad for business in general and small business in particular. This is exactly what is going on regarding Wall Street reform.

It’s clear that the U.S. Chamber does not represent the interests of small businesses that have suffered because of the irresponsible actions of the nation’s biggest banks. The greed of these financial institutions collapsed our economy and shut down loans and credit lines to our small businesses. We hear macro and micro stories every day about small businesses not getting access to the money they need. And every economist acknowledges that small businesses must hire the employees we need to lead us out of this recession just as they have in the last three economic recoveries.

But ironically, the only business sector that’s apparently hiring is Wall Street, as the New York Times explains in a recent piece. Greed is still alive and well on Wall Street. And we all know that without Wall Street reform, greed will bring our economy down again and tear apart our small businesses — if we can ever get them back on their feet.

Yet, the U.S. Chamber still wants Congress and the public to be afraid — very afraid. Wall Street reform will dry up loans to small business, the U.S. Chamber warns. That’s wrong. Their big bank donors are doing pretty well right now and they aren’t doing that by making small business loans and investing in our communities. They’re making money gambling on Wall Street.

The U.S. Chamber pretends to be a friend to Main Street worried that Sam the Butcher, Joe the Orthodontist and your local car dealer will be regulated out of business. That’s not in the Wall Street reform proposal.

What the butcher, orthodontist and car dealer want are customers — the customers who lost their jobs because of Wall Street greed.

Small business supports this reform because it will restore balance between Wall Street and Main Street through fair and commonsense policies and create a stable, transparent financial environment in which community banks and credit unions can once again feel secure in making loans.

We at the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce have been strong supporters of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to better protect consumers, which includes small businesses. We’re not afraid of good regulation that keeps our customers and us safe from financial predators.

We’re in favor of making banks be banks and not gambling houses. We have been strong supporters of the “Volcker Rule” to put the brakes on proprietary trading by banks — the practice that largely is responsible for bringing us to the brink of another Great Depression.

Congress should just say no to the U.S. Chamber. The financial health of our country and our small businesses depends on it.

Knapp is president and CEO of The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

Copyright © 2010 by American Forum. 7/10


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