The president made the comments during an exclusive interview with Black Enterprise magazine’s editor-in-chief Derek Dingle, who got a chance to quiz him in the Oval Office on how his policies have affected African Americans and black businesses.
“My general view has been consistent throughout, which is that I want all businesses to succeed,” the president said in response to a question about how he would answer criticism that his administration hasn’t done enough to support black businesses. “I want all Americans to have opportunity. I’m not the president of black America. I’m the president of the United States of America, but the programs that we have put in place have been directed at those folks who are least able to get financing through conventional means, who have been in the past locked out of opportunities that were available to everybody. So, I’ll put my track record up against anybody in terms of us putting in place broad-based programs that ultimately had a huge benefit for African American businesses.”
The president recounted the ways in which the woeful economy has hammered all American businesses, and black businesses in particular, and the measures that his administration took to right the sinking ship, such as rescuing the auto industry—which he pointed out includes many black businesses small and large in the industry supply chain.
“Now does that mean that we’ve done enough? Absolutely not,” the president said.
“The African American community ends up being hurt during recessionary times more than the population at large,” he continued. “[The] African American unemployment rate is still way too high. You had a credit crunch for small- and medium-sized businesses that disproportionately impacted African American businesses. But part of what we have been able to do is to specifically focus on disadvantaged businesses, disadvantaged communities. The Small Business Administration, for example, which is a significant source of financing for minority- and women-owned businesses, has stepped into the breach by expanding their loan portfolios and cutting their fees at a time when a lot of banks and other financial institutions just pulled back. Some of the work that we did legislatively, like the New Markets Tax Credit, makes a huge difference specifically for African American businesses.”
When asked about the black unemployment rate that hovers at 14 percent, the president was quick to point the finger at Congress.
“We are digging ourselves out of a deep hole. There are a lot more things we could be doing. To get them done, we need cooperation of Congress,” he said. “We got the payroll tax portion of [my American Jobs Act] done, but what we didn’t get done is the assistance I was proposing to the states to help them hire back teachers, firefighters, and first responders, because one of the weakest parts of this recovery has been state and local government hiring. Given the weaknesses of the construction industry, the American Jobs Act proposed that we rebuild schools, roads, bridges, airport, and ports. That would provide small businesses with opportunities as contractors and vendors in this rebuilding process. Again, Congress needs to act.”