President Obama has announced his intention to use $30 billion in TARP funds to create a new small business lending fund. In all likelihood, this is $30 billion the taxpayers will never see returned.
First of all, the problem facing small business, outside of the massive uncertainty being created by Washington, is one of credit availability, not cost. For those who can get credit, its quite cheap, arguably too cheap. So if the president doesn’t intend to lower the cost of credit, the plan must be to lower the quality; using the $30 billion to cover expected credit losses. Of course, we tried throwing lots of taxpayer money at unsustainable homeownership, is there any reason to believe throwing taxpayer money at unsustainable businesses is going to work any better?
Using TARP funds for this program is also somewhat disingenuous. This program adds $30 billion to the deficit regardless of whether it’s funded by TARP or by Congressional appropriations. Taking from the TARP only allows the President to keep treating the TARP as his personal slush fund. Nowhere in the TARP legislation can you find language authorizing the use of funds to cover credit losses on new loans. Being a constitutional scholar, the President should know very well that the spending power rests with Congress, not the President. If we are to have a new small business lending program, it should be designed and funded by Congress, not bureaucrats at the Treasury Department.
Historically the two main sources of small business start-up funding have been home equity and credit cards. Clearly the availability of home equity has declined. Sadly as well, with the passing of credit card “reform” the availability of credit card lending has also declined. If the President truly wants to help small business, then the first thing to do is ask Congress to repeal the credit card bill and then just get out of the way.