Bush Administration Not Making The Grade

What has the government done for African Americans lately?

cut from $900 million to $593 million. “President Bush pays lip service to an ‘ownership society,’ but his administration has consistently targeted for elimination the SBA’s venture capital, micro-lending, and loan guarantee programs for women, minorities, and underserved populations,” charges Wynn. “Internal reports that the SBA was forced in court to make public revealed that over $2 billion in small business contracts, including over $400 million in minority/disadvantaged set-aside funds, went to some of the largest companies in the world — Hewlett-Packard, Titan Corporation, Raytheon, and Archer Daniels Midland.”

Challenges continue to malign the efforts of minority businesses to win federal contracts. According to a report released by the Democratic staff of the House Small Business Committee in October, minorities, who own 4.1 million firms, lost $3.6 billion in federal contracting opportunities during the 2004 fiscal year. In addition, the report noted, the dollar value of contracts awarded to minority firms declined by 9%.

Michael Russell, CEO of H.J. Russell & Co. (No. 13 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $304.2 million in sales) says the administration has struggled to connect with the African American community in general. “Because of that, it has continued to not have the type of relationship I think it would like to have with African American business owners. Certainly the lack of sensitivity from the government perspective [toward] a higher level of inclusion, particularly for small businesses, has had a negative impact,” he says.

“Most business owners like m
yself believe that Bush is pro-business and wants to see businesses succeed, but he hasn’t been able to [reconcile] that with other distractions, such as the Iraq war,” Russell says. “I just don’t think [diversity in business] has been on the agenda.”

Ironically, the one area in which some people agree the administration has done a good job for blacks is its commitment to providing aid to Africa. “There has been some good movement on that horizon,” says Walters. “The administration has done more than the previous administration with respect to aid to Africa, and one has to respect that.” The president’s Millennium Challenge Account pledges to increase global development assistance by 50% by fiscal year 2006. The African Growth and Opportunity Act increased U.S. exports by 25% in 2004, to $8.6 billion, while non-oil imports totaled $3.5 billion, up 22%.

Davis applauds the appointments of both Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice to secretary of state. “I couldn’t have imagined 25 years ago that we’d have a black secretary of state succeeded by a black secretary of state. I think the president does deserve some credit for that,” Davis says. But when it comes to domestic policy, he adds, “I think it’s near impossible to find a single Bush domestic policy that has accrued to the benefit of African Americans.”

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