Big banks that got big bailout bucks should return the favor by lending more to qualified small businesses, President Barack Obama says.
In his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, Obama said too many small business owners remain unable to get credit despite administration steps to jump-start lending, which was virtually frozen when the financial crisis took hold last year.
"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," Obama said.
"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," said Obama.
The president said the administration will "take every appropriate step to encourage them to meet those responsibilities." He did not specify what those steps might be.
Obama's were the latest instance of the populist tone he has employed to pressure the financial industry.
Earlier this week, Obama criticized the banking and finance industries for working through Congress to try to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Agency he has proposed. He accused them of "using every bit of influence they have to maintain the status quo that has maximized their profits at the expense of American consumers, despite the fact that recently those same American consumers bailed them out as a consequence of the bad decisions that they made."
The financial bailout package cost taxpayers $700 billion.
In his address Saturday, Obama said small businesses have created nearly two-thirds of the nation's new jobs over the past decade and a half.
"They must be at the forefront of our recovery," he said.
This year's $787 billion economic stimulus package made $5 billion in tax breaks available to small business and cut the costs of Small Business Administration loans, Obama said. Last week, he asked Congress to increase the size of some SBA loans and announced a plan to provide low interest loans to small banks that agree to lend more money to small businesses.