The Small Business Administration, the federal agency that’s charged with representing the interests of America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs, seems to be catering more to big business interests these days—at least according to one academic.
In a recent blog post, Dan Farber, a University of California Berkeley law professor, points to evidence that the SBA no longer focuses much on “mom and pop” businesses with fewer than five or 10 employees. For one, the SBA’s size standards—used to determine which businesses qualify for small business-reserved loans and contracts—include businesses with up to $175 million in revenues in certain industries. That hardly seems “small,” Farber contends.
Another disturbing trend, he claims: The SBA’s Office of Advocacy has, at times, joined the chorus of pro-business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that often lobby for laws and looser regulations that benefit large corporations, sometimes at the expense of small businesses.
He writes: “For instance, it pressured the EPA not to regulate arsenic, fine particles, and lead emissions from coal power plants. It has also opposed regulations of formaldehyde, styrene, and chromium, as well as arguing that EPA should not regulate greenhouse gases (apparently on grounds that the Supreme Court had already rejected in a previous case). It also shows up at meetings flanked by major corporations like ExxonMobil to argue in favor of watering down regulations.”
Farber points to two reports, one by the Center for Progressive Reform and another by the Center for Effective Government, that argue that the SBA’s Office of Advocacy has become politicized and too heavily influenced by corporate interests.
Similar criticisms to the one Farber lodges at SBA have been been aimed at "small-business advocacy" groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business, which has been accused of lobbying for a right-wing, “big business” agenda. But what's disconcerting about Farber’s accusations is that the SBA is not a membership group. Taxpayer dollars, not membership dues, fund its mission and activities.
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