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Ways and Means


However, he did agree that the economic catastrophe was an opportunity to “remake America,” although he didn’t sound convincing when I asked him just how the administration would cut the deficit in half by 2013 without raising taxes across the board. He finds much of the answer in significant GDP growth — the Obama administration estimates it will expand by 2.6% each year.


Although transforming the economy will not be easy, Rangel has placed his faith in the administration’s approach. For instance, when I asked how businesses that have lost their financial footing and now have severe credit problems will be able to qualify for funding under the revamped SBA 7(a) guaranteed loan program, he told me, “I don’t know except to say that you’re going to have extreme local, state, and federal regulations and support to know that it’s not just the right thing to do but if [small business] goes under, they are encouraging, indirectly, the problem that we are trying to get out of … But [the Obama administration is saying] something that I haven’t heard in all of the years that I’ve been in government, that this is going to be to be a compassionate administration that is going to recognize that we don’t want people to go under … We don’t want people to have to foreclose and sell their businesses … We don’t just want to be a creditor that enforces the law. We want people to know that we want to work things out.”


Rangel readily admits there “are going to be some losers but, in terms of a generation, I don’t think there’s been a more exciting and challenging time for American minorities.”

“When the Roosevelt recovery came, that picked up everybody. Blacks were trained. Blacks were building. Blacks were providing art and music. And even after World War II, even though blacks were treated worse than German prisoners, that G.I. Bill picked us up and [enabled] us to go into business and have homes. I think that we’re going through that period now when we’re talking about billions of dollars out there for the green economy,” he recounts as he rattles off alternative fuel programs, solar energy projects, and biofuel initiatives. “What world are we talking about? It’s not your world or mine. It’s our kids’ world.”


From 125th Street, Rangel makes his connection from the challenging present to a glorious future.