Politics

Obama Calls on Banks to Lend More to Small Businesses

President Obama is prepared to take "every appropriate step" to pressure banks to lend more money to small businesses, he said Saturday, the latest in a week of salvos his administration has directed toward financial institutions.

Obama said banks should return the favor for a $700 billion taxpayer-financed financial bailout package by lending more money to small businesses, without specifying what steps he would be willing to take to mount pressure on the banks.

Too many small business owners remain unable to get credit, Obama said in his weekly radio address, despite his administration's efforts 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.

On Thursday, his administration extended its control of corporations and financial institutions to set limits on executive pay at companies that received funds in the government bailout, measures more in line with European economic structures.

His remarks Saturday 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."

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.