Friday, January 29, 2010

Obama Renews His Commitments to Clean Energy and Small Business

In his State of the Union address, President Obama indicated that he will continue to pursue a comprehensive energy and climate bill as well as provide relief for small business.

The President showed leadership by not bowing to political expediency and playing it safe as many had predicted. Despite its unpopularity, he mentioned clean energy more than half a dozen times and he reiterated his commitment to building a new energy economy.

The President reached out to small business, a community that is vital to the ongoing recovery as it is responsible for over 97 percent of new jobs in America.

This was an important message for a beleaguered small business community who had begun to question the President's commitment. Obama has been criticized for giving federal small business funds to big corporations while bankruptcies for small businesses are up 44 percent over last year. Almost 2 years ago, then Senator Obama said, "It is time to end the diversion of federal small business contracts to corporate giants."

Before yesterday's State of the Union address, only 2 percent of the stimulus funds had been allocated to small businesses and hundreds of millions in federal contracts that by law are earmarked for small business have been diverted to Fortune 500 firms.

The President has done well to remember the support he received from the small business community. Prior to Obama's election win in 2008, Lloyd Chapman, the President of the ASBL, summarized the sentiments of many small business owners when he said, "I am so tired of being disappointed by our elected officials. For the first time in many years I am genuinely excited about this election. In my life, I have never been more excited about any politician than I am about Barack Obama. I believe that he holds the key to a new future for all Americans. I believe that with Senator Obama in the White House, Americans are going to be more proud of this country than they have ever been in their lives."

However, politics is a two way street. After being elected President, Obama received little support from small business for his clean energy initiatives and cap-and-trade proposal. Further, the scope of the crisis necessitated a top down approach which left many small businesses feeling excluded.

President Obama's State of the Union address was an attempt to reignite the mutual support he enjoyed with the small business communty during the Presidential campaign. "I am proud to have the support of the American Small Business League and their grassroots efforts to help protect American small business. Helping American small business is part of our movement for change and the end of politics as usual," Senator Obama said in 2008.

In his State of the Union address the President proposed $30 billion to assist small business, tax credits and tax cuts, time will tell if that support will be reciprocated.

Although the President repeated his commitment to clean energy, his address also included support for some contentious energy programs including nuclear, offshore drilling, bio-fuels and "clean" coal.

Vowing to sign executive orders and use his veto power, the President has indicated that although he is still interested in bipartisanship, if need be, he will use his presidential privileges.

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