|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 13, 2002
Vice President's Remarks at Economic Forum Small Business & Smarter Regulation Session
In Focus: President's Economic Forum
TIME: 9:00 a.m.
(Vice President Cheney enters the forum.)
MR. DANIELS: Thank you, Karen. The floor is open.
MR. LOPEZ: Jo Lopez from Texas -- Chambers. One of the key things that's happening right now is that with -- as of 911, the borders have been slowed down substantially. We have got a two-hour to a two-and-a-half-hour wait at bridges. There must be a way where you can send more money all along the borders of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California and speed up that process and still do what we need to do -- needs to be done and, obviously, to check and make sure we're safe.
But we have got retailers there that are dying. They are completely dying, 60%, 40% losses. I have got a grocery account. I have an advertising agency. And one of my grocery accounts is hurting substantially. They are down 40% because of that.
The biggest -- President Bush said one of our biggest partners, when he was Governor of Texas, is Mexico. And yet it seems like we have forgotten that Mexico is there sometimes. And that is perception, it may not be reality, but that is perception. So we need help at the borders.
We also need help with the industry that's there. We have had a country that now has a middle class as a result of the economic -- the twin plants that are there. And now twin plants are leaving. They are going to China. And there are companies that are going to China, you know, big-time and we're losing a lot of companies there. All of a sudden, our middle class that was purchasing in the United States is starting to disappear and that is middle-class Mexico. So those are two things that I would note.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Why are they moving to China?
MR. LOPEZ: Sir?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Why are they moving to China?
MR. LOPEZ: Because of the -- the hourly wages are so low in China that Mexico can't compete now. We were going to Mexico for advantages of the hourly wages. And my concern is that, yes, we need to do trade all over the nation. We want to -- our whole trade. And the biggest problem we have is, when we go to China, our biggest -- one of our biggest partners next to Canada is Mexico. And we're being affected in so many different realms. And I don't know if there's a way to hold it, to get them to put some incentives for people to stay in Mexico, etc. But they are leaving to China and we have got a lot of the technology that's going down there also. That wasn't in the -- you know, when you talk about garment workers and stuff like that, that is the working job. But when you start seeing technology jobs start going to China, then that really, really is a negative sign for everything along the border.
MR. DANIELS: Thank you. Ladies first.
MS. STOUT: Thank you. I'm a small-business owner. And after 911, I thought my business was going to go out of business because I own a travel agency. And then when we had the 911 incident, all travel stopped. I had to reverse everybody for travel for the next few weeks, etc., and I thought that I was going to start having to do something else. I had to lay off a lot of people. But I had already been working with the government and that was an -- that I had to experiment. The reason why I'm in business and, as a matter of fact, doing excellent, is because I started -- struggling with the government on the part of -- I'm servicing 13 air force bases in the United States right now. I am doing very well. My business is doing great.
And I think that one important thing that can be done for a small business is to -- a lot of the huge -- and company little pieces it allows to -- allows small business owners to get in absolutely every portion of the business that is coming out from the government, from advertising to travel, to food services, etc. There's so much out there that can help a small business grow and develop. So I think that I need to tell my story because, otherwise, I would be home, you know, probably looking in the want ads, if it would not be for my contract.
So we need to tap into that. The Small Business Administration had offered -- I want to be able to -- you know, pay with two loans from the SBA. And I think that it's important that we recognize that there's help out there, but we need to make it known to everybody. So that when you build it, we come and we continue the developments of this program. Thank you.
MR. SOTO: Mr. Vice President, my name is Alex Soto. I'm from Miami, Florida. First of all, I want to commend you for this forum and participatory democracy. I'm originally from Cuba. And I can assure you this sort of thing doesn't go on out there. So it's really delightful to be here and to see this.
My two boys are in the east right now. They sent my an E-mail from Turkey, 24 year old and a 21 year old. And they said, "The people that we have met love Americans, but don't really care for our government." And what happens is, they don't realize that we are the government. Unlike many of the parts of the world, we are the government. And this is the definite group and that's why I commend you.
I want to comment on two things. I'm an independent insurance agent/broker. I'm a member of the Independent Insurance Agents of America. And we write -- our agents write about 75% of all of the business insurance in America. We are delivering very high insurance renewals on health insurance. And the effect of that is that, our clients are beginning to pass more and more of the cost to their employees, where people are going bare and the people that need the coverage the most. Whatever work we can do, that is probably the Number 1 area that we need to control, the cost of health insurance.
Number 2, the regulatory aspects that sometimes things that seem like a good idea in Washington come down in terms of regulation. What they do to small business -- and our members probably have the average agency in the United States. They don't have the sophistication to deal with a tremendous amount of paperwork and regulation that come either from OSHA or from others. So there's got to be a template created as we push down regulations. Is this really going to do more good than harm?
So those are my two comments, health insurance and regulations. Thank you.
MR. HERRERA: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. My name is George Herrera. I'm the President and CEO of the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. And what I would like to do, Mr. Vice president, is just to frame my remarks with a little overview. The Hispanic business community is the largest growing sector of the small-business community growing at a rate of three times faster than the general small-business community. And the surge within the Hispanic-business community is being driven by female entrepreneurs within our community. They are growing at a rate of six times faster than the small-business growth rate. And two issues that are paramount important to our community, Number 1, access to capital. Not necessarily access to debt capital but access to venture and equity capital. In order for us to continue to be prominent players in a global marketplace, we need to be in a position to have access to equity capital and to venture capital. And we have been working very, very closely with the administrator who has done a phenomenal job in bringing about an awareness of opening up equity markets for, not only Hispanic businesses, but small businesses in general in the United States.
The Hispanic community today, Mr. Vice President, enrolls more children in the first grade in America's public school systems than any other ethnic group. They are the consumer market of the future. They are the entrepreneurial base of the future of this country. And what we need to do is to be able to put in place mechanisms that will open the door and unlock access to capital. And we believe that the private sector can play a very important role in terms of looking at private/public sector of collaborations. We have a purchasing power in our community of 500 billion dollars. That is an asset for our community and one that we need to take and develop reciprocal business relationships with corporate America.
Corporate America every day has pools of pension fund monies that they are investing but are not investing in Hispanic-owned investment vehicles that can provide an opportunity for us to access capital for our community. And we think with -- by having a dialogue with executives of corporate America, to bring them to the table and engage them in the dialogue, that will result in true reciprocity. We are their consumer base. We're buying their products and services. We want them to reinvest back into our communities. And the way they can do it is by coming to the table, engaging us in dialogues and, hopefully, it will open up the doors to access to capital.
And my second point is around the comment that Patricia made and that is in terms of bundling, contract bundling. The word was "bundling" not what you hear in the government. It's consolidation. Okay. I mean, even the army has set up a consolidation program. When the president in March made a statement that he wants government agencies to stop bundling contracts, unfortunately, the message is not getting to the heads of these government agencies to let them know that the President is very serious about moving away from bundling and, slash, consolidation. And we may not always be in a position to be a tier-one contractor to a government agency, but we at least need to be able to know that we have an opportunity and a seat at the table when these contracts come out that will allow our community to be very competitive in the federal marketplace.
And I want to, again, commend you and the President, Mr. Vice President, for taking the leadership and to hear from the constituency in this country, the small-business community, the leaders of America who are the constituency that you represent for putting this forum together. Because we think it is essential that you hear from our land in terms of what are some of the issues that we're confronting here every day. Thank you very much.
MR. DANIELS: The Vice President is going to have to leave in just a second, but maybe one more quick comment. Go ahead.
MS. GAY: Mr. Vice President, the President came out in March and said that he was very much in favor of the office of the advocacy to expand their duties and to make them more powerful, so that small businesses would at least have a friend to help with regulatory affairs and contract bundling. This has not been the case so far. We understand that they are under-funded. So what or when is this going to take effect? And when are we going to see some relief, so that we do have a friend there that can help the small business people?
MR. DANIELS: Hector, do you want to speak now?
MR. BARRETO: You're right. You know, the President in his small-business initiative talked about empowering the Office of Advocacy. And one of the things he immediately did was, he signed an executive order that really would empower that Office of Advocacy. They're working very, very closely with OMB. We have a memorandum of understanding with OIRA and John Graham here. So there is definitely movement taking place.
I can tell you that my relationship with Tom Sullivan, the Chief Counsel of Advocacy, is excellent. And we have one of the strongest working relationships. We're going to continue working in that vein. And I agree with you, one of the most important things that we can do is to make sure that we give some regulatory relief to small businesses. We still believe that small businesses are overregulated, spend way too much money per employee in comparison to larger companies. And so this is one of the most important things we can do and that's why the President put it in his small-business initiative. But I assure you that we will work every day to strengthen that function because it's vital to the interest of small businesses, 25 million small businesses in the United States.
MS. GAY: What's the timetable?
MR. BARRETO: Well, this work is already undergoing. I mean, the memorandum, my understanding, has already been signed with the Office of Management and Budget. They are already working together on a whole host of initiatives. One of the things that came out of it is that they solicited a lot of feedback from small businesses. OIRA received 2,000 comments from small businesses on issues relating to regulation. In the previous cycle they received 72, so -- 72 comments. So the awareness is out there. I think people do realize now that that Office of Advocacy is critical to small businesses. And, as I said, that is work that is undergoing every single day. Thanks.
MR. DANIELS: Mr. Vice President, thank you for coming.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Thank you, Mitch. Let me thank all of you for being here as well too. The idea, obviously, in part is an opportunity for the President and I to be able to listen to the folks who are out there every day wrestling with these problems. I can assure you that we value very highly the enormous contribution that small business makes to the economy. The strong, healthy economy in the United States depends on the strong, healthy small-business sector. These are such a vital part of the backbone of the economy. So we appreciate your willingness to give your time and counsel and the advice. And we'll try to do our best to have the opportunity to follow through on some of your ideas and thoughts and suggestions.
Mitch will continue to preside right here. And I can't think of anybody better to accept the responsibility for these kinds of concerns than the man we call "the blade" around --
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Thank you all very much for being here.
(Vice President Cheney exited the forum)