From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio -- In a bid to show leadership on the economic front, Obama proposed government help for credit-strapped small businesses, through tax cuts and easier access to low-cost loans.
His campaign said his proposal for a Small Business Rescue Plan was not a response to the stock market declines of the past few days, but instead a short-term proposal to help businesses that are having trouble getting loans stay afloat. Obama has tried to explain to people at his rallies the ripple effect the struggles of small businesses -- which employ half of the workers in the private sector -- could have on the rest of the economy. He tells crowds that businesses that can't make payroll or finance their inventories will be forced to lay off workers.
"If we're going to rebuild this economy from the bottom up, then it has to start with our small businesses on Main Street. I see some of them right along here -- not just the big banks on Wall Street," he told the crowd of 5,000 here.
In addition to eliminating capital gains taxes on investments in small businesses and start-ups, ideas that are already part of his stump speech, Obama proposed today using the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Disaster Loan Program to extend affordable, fixed-rate loans directly to small businesses, as it did after September 11th. His plan would expand SBA guarantees to encourage private lending to small firms by temporarily eliminating fees for borrowers and lenders and increasing the guarantee rate on private loans and he proposes extending through 2009 a temporary provision to increase tax benefits for small businesses that was included in February's economic stimulus bill. That provision is set to expire in December.
The Democratic nominee, who is trying to convince voters that he is the best candidate to lead an economic recovery and look out for the middle class, also sought to make it clear that his tax plan would not lead to increases for 98% of the small business owners, who he said make less than $250,000 a year.
As he did in a speech in Nevada late last month, when he first spelled out in plain terms why a massive federal rescue package was needed to avert a deeper crisis, Obama alluded to something Franklin D. Roosevelt told Americans in his first fireside chat in calling for "confidence in America, confidence in our economy and confidence in ourselves" and he directly quoted the former president when he said Americans had seen their share of hard times.
"The American story has never been about things coming easy -- it's been about rising to the moment when the moment is hard; about having steel nerves when things are fearful; about rejecting the panicked division for purposeful unity; about seeing a mountain top from the deepest valley," he said. "That's why we remember that some of the most famous words ever spoken by an American came from a President who took office in a time of turmoil – He said "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
This stop in Ross County, which Bush won by about 3,300 votes in 2004, began the second day of Obama's two-day jobs tour through this key battleground. He noted the state's 7.4% unemployment rate and the 12,000 jobs lost here this year as he spoke about creating five million new clean energy jobs and another two million infrastructure jobs.
He also warned the audience to expect more personal attacks from the McCain campaign in an attempt to shift the focus off the economy. "In the last couple of days, we've seen a barrage of nasty insinuations and attacks, and I'm sure we're gonna see more of that over the next 25 days. We know what's coming. We know what they're gonna do," he said.
Casting himself as a "uniter," Obama said such tactics would not work. "They can try to deny the record of the last eight years. They can run misleading ads. They pursue the politics of anything goes. It will not work. Not this time," he said.
"It's easy to rile up a crowd. Nothing's easier than riling up a crowd by stoking anger and division. But that's not what we need right now in the United States. The times are too serious. The challenges are too great. The American people aren't looking for someone who can divide this country -- they're looking for somebody who will lead this country."