Today at a Senate Banking Committee hearing, I had a chance to question Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke – one of our country’s top economic officials – about how we can accelerate job growth and encourage small business hiring. I want to make sure that our children have the same economic opportunities that we were afforded.
I expressed my concern to Chairman Bernanke about the lack of hiring in the current economy despite strengthening business profits. Chairman Bernanke agreed that growing unemployment was a major problem and recommended that Congress takes a look at ways to help the unemployed. He also stressed the need to educate our workforce and allow them to get the skills to compete in an increasingly global and technological society.
I also asked Chairman Bernanke about the impact that bank consolidation has had on customers, small businesses, and famers. After 164 years, Wisconsin’s oldest and largest bank, M & I Bank, was recently purchased by the much larger Harris Bank. Since small business loans tend to decrease when large national banks buy small banks, it is important that we make sure we continue to have banks that serve our communities well.
Chairman Bernanke acknowledged that larger banks are not lending to small businesses at the same rate as community banks. This is an issue that I've raised with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and I'll continue our oversight efforts to ensure that our small business and farm entrepreneurs have access to the credit they need to generate growth and jobs.
Because the majority of new jobs come from small businesses and even more specifically, from companies that are less than five years old, I have been focused on finding ways to make it easier for Wisconsin's entrepreneurs and small businesses to thrive in this economy. I strongly supported legislation to expand lending incentives for small businesses and entrepreneurs under the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010. I have also fought to lower the tax burden on small businesses and reward companies that hire workers who have been unemployed. I am continually looking for new ways that we can support small businesses. This year, for example, I introduced the Small Business Savings Account Act that would help reduce start-up costs for entrepreneurs by allowing individuals seeking to start small businesses to save up to $10,000 annually and grow the savings tax-free.
I regularly visit with workers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners in Wisconsin. Ensuring small businesses have access to capital so they can expand and providing workers with the skills they need to succeed in new jobs are crucial steps we can take to secure long-term economic growth.