Re "Why Lift Lending Cap? Credit Unions Can Skirt It Anyway," June 26:
Tsk, tsk, Cam Fine. As our nation's unemployed continue to struggle and our economy fails to gain any significant impetus toward a recovery, it would seem U.S. community bankers would welcome any and all legislation that promotes job growth and helps our country find solid economic footing.
Instead, the Independent Community Bankers of America head and his community bankers have proven, yet again, that their self-protective interests supplant those of the nation, while small businesses and the unemployed pay dearly.
The federal government has made several attempts to boost business lending through the 2009 stimulus bill, the 2010 Small Business Jobs Act and "credit enhancements." But none of these vehicles have improved small businesses' access to capital. Of the $30 billion apportioned in the Small Business Lending Fund, only $4.8 billion was actually disbursed.
Yet, Mr. Fine continues to be disingenuous and ignore the facts as he trots out hackneyed arguments to challenge legislation that would lift what is an arbitrary and outdated cap on credit unions' ability to make business loans to their members. It is also curious that he forgot to mention credit unions have been engaged in member business lending since 1934 or that member business lending has nothing to do with the federal income tax exemption codified that same year. I guess he also conveniently forgot that no cap existed until 1998 and that a congressionally mandated Treasury study found credit union business lending posed no threat to community banks. Finally, what about the follow-up studies from the Government Accountability Office, the Small Business Administration and others that show credit union business lending fills a critical gap banks simply don't even want to fill?
According to a recent NAFCU survey, credit unions said 44 percent of their portfolio was made up of loans of less than $100,000 compared with banks that only have eight percent of their lending in this size category. In addition, credit unions said their lending for loans between $100,000 and $250,000 made up 20 percent of their portfolio, compared with six percent for banks. Alternatively, business loans over $1 million make up 68 percent of the banks portfolios, but only 16 percent for credit unions. Obviously, the bankers are only interested in making loans that will generate the most profit, while credit unions strive to fill a need.
The Small Business Lending Enhancement Act is a bipartisan, common-sense approach, endorsed by the Treasury Department and the National Credit Union Administration. It would allow credit unions to help America's small businesses and our country's economy without costing taxpayers a dime. And the reality is, whether lifting the cap creates one job or 1,000, it would be a success.
Cam, I suggest you explain your position to those unemployed Americans whose unemployment benefits are about to run out. I'll bet they are thinking "Enough, already!"
Fred R. Becker Jr. is the president and CEO of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU).