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Weekly remarks: Obama salutes small business, Mike Johanns says health reforms mean Medicare cuts

October 24, 2009 |  3:00 am

Barack Obama White House at Dawn

Remarks by President Obama, as provided by the White House

All across America, even today, on a Saturday, millions of Americans are hard at work. They’re running the mom and pop stores and neighborhood restaurants we know and love. They’re building tiny start-ups with big ideas that could revolutionize an industry, maybe even transform our economy.

They are the more than half of all Americans who work at a small business, or own a small business. And they embody the spirit of possibility, the relentless work ethic and the hope for something better that is at the heart of the American Dream.

They also represent a segment of our economy that has been hard hit by this recession. Over the past couple of years, small businesses have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Many have struggled to get the loans they need to finance their inventories and

...make payroll. Many entrepreneurs can’t get financing to start a small business in the first place. And many more are discouraged from even trying because of the crushing costs of health care – costs that have forced too many small businesses to cut benefits, shed jobs, or shut their doors for good.  

Small businesses have always been the engine of our economy – creating 65 percent of all new jobs over the past decade and a half – and they must be at the forefront of our recovery. That’s why the Recovery Act was designed to help small businesses expand and create jobs. It’s provided $5 billion worth of tax relief, as well as temporarily reducing or eliminating fees on SBA loans and guaranteeing some of these loans up to 90 percent, which has supported nearly $13 billion in new lending to more than 33,000 businesses.

In addition, our health reform plan will allow small businesses to buy insurance for their employees through an insurance exchange, which may offer better coverage at lower costs – and we’ll provide tax credits for those that choose to do so.  

And this past week, I called on Congress to increase the maximum size of various SBA loans, so that more small business owners can set up shop and grow their operations. I also announced that we’ll be taking additional steps through our Financial Stability plan to make more credit available to the small local and community banks that so many small businesses depend on – the banks who know their borrowers, who gave them their first loan and watched them grow.  

The goal here is to get credit where it’s needed most – to businesses that support families, sustain communities, and create the jobs that power our economy. That’s why we enacted the Financial Stability Plan in the first place, back when many of our largest banks were on the verge of collapse; our credit markets were frozen; and it was nearly impossible for ordinary people to get loans to buy a car or home or pay for college.

The idea was to jump-start lending and keep our economy from spiraling into a depression.  Fortunately, it worked.  Thanks to the American taxpayers, we’ve now achieved the stability we need to get our economy moving forward again.  

But while credit may be more available for large businesses, too many small business owners are still struggling to get the credit they need. These are the very taxpayers who stood by America’s banks in a crisis – and now it’s time for our banks to stand by creditworthy small businesses, and make the loans they need to open their doors, grow their operations, and create new jobs. 

It’s time for those banks to fulfill their responsibility to help ensure a wider recovery, a more secure system, and more broadly shared prosperity. And we’re going to take every appropriate step to encourage them to meet those responsibilities. Because if it’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that here in America, we rise and fall together. Our economy as a whole can’t move ahead if small businesses and the middle class continue to fall behind.

This country was built by dreamers.They’re the workers who took a chance on their desire to be their own boss. The part-time inventors who became the full-time entrepreneurs. 

The men and women who have helped build the American middle class, keeping alive that most American of ideals – that all things are possible for all people, and we’re limited only by the size of our dreams and our willingness to work for them. We need to do everything we can to ensure that they can keep taking those risks, acting on those dreams, and building the enterprises that fuel our economy and make us who we are. Thanks.   ###

Capitol Hill at Night

Remarks by Sen. Mike Johanns, as provided by the Senate Republican Communications Center

Hi, I'm Senator Mike Johanns of Nebraska.

My Republican colleagues and I have a simple test for reforming health care: Will this legislation improve your life?

Here's what I mean: Americans face rising health care costs, and it's increasingly difficult to get access to health care. True health care reform should decrease what you're paying, and make it easier for you to receive care. That should be a no-brainer.

Yet current proposals in Congress don't accomplish this goal, and could even have the opposite effect, negatively impacting each and every one of us.
Republican Senator Mike Johanns of Nebraska
To the working mother with a disabled child who uses a Flexible Spending Account and those pre-tax dollars for treatment, medicine, and therapy for your child: this plan will end these accounts as we know them today, and result in increased out of pocket costs.

To the factory worker, who has forgone pay raises for the promise of better insurance benefits for you and your family: your health insurance will be taxed and your premiums will go up.

To the recent college graduate burdened with student loans: you'll be forced to buy health insurance the government mandates, and if you refuse, you'll be hit with a penalty.

To our seniors, who wish to receive care in the comfort of their homes: funding for hospice care and home health care services would be cut.

My state, Nebraska, stands to lose $126 million for home health services, and many of the 38 Nebraska hospices would be in danger of literally shutting their doors. Nearly $500 billion will be cut from Medicare nationwide.

The bottom line is this: we're nearing 10 percent unemployment. We have a record budget deficit, and many families are working hard just to put food on the table and to pay the bills. Yet, there's no doubt about it: these proposals will negatively impact pocketbooks and paychecks across America.

President Obama has promised open deliberations in front of C-SPAN cameras for all Americans to learn how reform will impact them. However, a 1,500 page bill, full of carve-outs and backroom deals, is currently being brokered behind closed doors.

We're about to significantly alter one-sixth of our economy—now is not the time to shut Americans out.

Reports of this deal-making are shameful. Why do Michigan, Rhode Island, Oregon and Nevada get special deals on Medicaid costs? Why do New Yorkers with Cadillac plans get a pass on paying the tax? It is shameful.

So now, as a select few deliberate over legislation that will mean higher premiums across the board; higher taxes for hard-working families; and cuts to Medicare for senior citizens; I ask: will this improve your life?

Republicans are in favor of lowering costs, reforming insurance so Americans can get care when they need it, and providing assistance for those who can't afford insurance.

See, we stand ready with ideas to tackle those challenges. But hundreds of pages filled with backroom deals, higher insurance premiums, higher taxes, and cuts to Medicare are not the answer.

I am Senator Mike Johanns of Nebraska. Thank you for your time.   ###

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Related items:

Weekly remarks, Oct. 17

Weekly remarks, Oct. 10

Weekly remarks, Oct. 3

Photo: Ron Edmonds / Associated Press; Johann's office; Associated Press.