In late July a number of regional booksellers associations as well as the American Booksellers Association wrote to the White House to express their concerns about his nationally televised appearance at an Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tenn as part of his tour promoting his economic recovery agenda. There was no immediate White House response to the issues that booksellers raised about Amazon’s predatory pricing, its decision to fight state sales tax, and other tactics that booksellers view as hurting all small businesses.
In a wordy, form letter, with no mention of Amazon, President Obama replied to Steve Fischer, executive director of the New England Independent Booksellers Association, last weekend. He, or more likely a staffer, used the letter to highlight Obama's commitment to job creation and particularly to helping small businesses, hit hard by the economic recession, grow. In closing, he noted, “I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure America remains the best place on Earth to turn a great idea into a successful business.”
Below is the letter in its entirety:
Thank you for writing. I have heard from men and women across our country about America's small businesses, and I am committed to creating an environment where these engines of job creation can grow and prosper.
Weeks before I took office in 2008, small businesses were hit hard by the worst economic crisis in generations. For hardworking small business owners that already operate on tight budgets, falling sales made it even more difficult to make ends meet. Because small businesses create two-thirds of new private sector jobs in the United States, my Administration knows that helping them expand and hire is critical to growing our economy.
In 2010, I signed the Small Business Jobs Act-the most significant small business legislation in over a decade. Through new programs like the Small Business Lending Fund and the State Small Business Credit Initiative, we are working with community banks and state capital support programs to help better serve America's small businesses. My Administration cut paperwork, streamlined processes, and increased loan amounts for Small Business Administration (SBA) lending programs, which have supported over $100 billion in loans since I took office-including a record year in 2011 and near-record year in 2012. The SBA is moving forward with a $1 billion Early-Stage Innovation Fund targeting early-stage businesses seeking capital. The SBA has also created a $1 billion Impact Investment Fund designed to assist traditionally underserved entrepreneurs like women and minorities, as well as small businesses focused on areas of national priority such as clean energy.
In 2011, my Administration launched the Startup America initiative to connect entrepreneurs to mentorship opportunities, help innovators get funding, cut through red tape, speed up innovation, and get their ventures off the ground faster. Alongside that initiative, leaders in the private sector launched the Startup America Partnership, which has mobilized to make over $1 billion in business services available to a national network that will serve as many as 100,000 startups over the next 3 years. To learn more, I encourage you to visit www.WhiteHouse.gov/economy/business/startup-america.
My Administration continues to make helping America's small businesses a top priority. I signed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act into law in 2012, which is making it easier for innovative companies to go public and expand their workforce. In my FY2014 budget, I proposed an intensive small business leadership program to help existing small business owners take their companies to the next level. We also launched the Presidential Innovation Fellows program to foster collaboration between top innovators inside and outside of Government. These individuals will develop new strategies to encourage public-private partnership; release Federal data that can be used to develop new products, services, and businesses; and make it easier for startup entrepreneurs to compete for Government contracts. In addition, thousands of American entrepreneurs and inventors are helping our Government solve tough problems by providing innovative solutions in response to over 200 incentive prizes and challenges offered by more than 45 agencies at www.Challenge.gov.
I have repeatedly called on Congress to pass more tax cuts-in addition to the 18 small business tax cuts I have already signed into law-that put money back in the hands of working families and provide a boost to goods and services purchased from small businesses. I have also proposed raising the minimum wage in stages to $9 an hour by the end of 2015, which will result in reduced turnover and increased productivity for employers at small businesses. This will not only help employers attract, retain, and motivate workers, but will also boost purchasing power for consumers and help small businesses grow.
The Affordable Care Act also plays an important role in supporting small business owners. Now, they no longer have to choose between hiring and health care. Through the new health care law, small businesses with fewer than 25 employees are eligible for tax credits for up to 35 percent of their premium contributions for employee coverage. Starting in 2014, the credits will cover up to half of a small business's premium contribution. Also in 2014, small businesses will have access to state-based Small Business Health Options Program marketplaces where they can purchase affordable, quality insurance, giving them the same purchasing power as large companies. To learn more, visit www.HealthCare.gov/Small-Businesses.
To ensure our economy is built to last while upholding our commitment to our Nation's heroes, I have expanded entrepreneurship training opportunities for service members and veterans who want to start businesses. In 2011, my Administration established a 2-day course in entrepreneurship, which-in addition to an 8-week online training program offered by the SBA-teaches the fundamentals of small business ownership to more than 10,000 veterans every year.
Finally, we need to create a leaner, more efficient system so small businesses can spend less time filling out paperwork and more time expanding and creating jobs. Instead of forcing small businesses to navigate the six departments and agencies that focus on business and trade, I am proposing one department, with one website, one phone number, and one mission: helping American businesses succeed. Cutting red tape like this will help small businesses grow, save businesses time, and save taxpayer dollars. In the meantime, I elevated the SBA to a Cabinet-level agency and launched a new website called BusinessUSA-a platform that consolidates information and services from across the Government into a single, integrated network for American business owners and entrepreneurs. To learn more, please visit www.BusinessUSA.gov.
I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure America remains the best place on Earth to turn a great idea into a successful business. I encourage small business owners to take advantage of the on-the-ground counseling resources available through SBA District Offices, and local Small Business Development Centers and Women's Business Centers. We have provided funding for those organizations to help businesses connect with the resources they need. You can also learn more about assistance available in your area or securing Government loans or grants by calling the SBA at 1-800-827-5722, or by visiting www.SBA.gov.
Thank you, again, for writing.