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Obama Urges Banks to Loan More to Small Businesses 


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U.S. President Barack Obama is calling on the nation's banks - especially those that received taxpayer bailouts - to give more loans to small businesses. The president says small businesses are the engine that drives the U.S. economy.

President Obama says small businesses have created about two-thirds of all new jobs in America over the last 15 years, but now they are having trouble getting credit.

"Over the past couple of years, small businesses have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs," he said. "Many have struggled to get the loans they need to finance their inventories and make payroll. Many entrepreneurs cannot get financing to start a small business in the first place."

In his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, the president says his $787-billion economic stimulus package and other initiatives have enabled banks to unfreeze credit and start lending again to big businesses.

Now, he says, those banks should pay the taxpayers back by lending to small businesses.

"It is time for those banks to fulfill their responsibility to help ensure a wider recovery, a more secure system, and more broadly shared prosperity," said the president. "And we are going to take every appropriate step to encourage them to meet those responsibilities."

In the past week, Mr. Obama called on Congress to increase the maximum size of government loans to small businesses, and to make more credit available to small community banks.

The president also says his health reform plan will help small businesses by offering employee health insurance and giving tax breaks to the businesses.

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In the Republican Party message, Senator Mike Johanns, from the Central state of Nebraska, says the Democrats' health overhaul proposals will make life worse for many Americans.

"True health care reform should decrease what you are paying and make it easier for you to receive care," he said. "That should be a no-brainer. Yet current proposals in Congress do not accomplish this goal, and could even have the opposite effect."

And Senator Johanns says secret political deals are being made on health reform, contrary to President Obama's promise of transparency.

"However, a 1,500 page bill, full of carve-outs and backroom deals, is currently being brokered behind closed doors," he said. "We are about to significantly alter one-sixth of our economy. Now is not the time to shut Americans out."

Mr. Obama wants Congress to pass health care reform legislation by the end of the year. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are discussing various bills.