Remarks on Signing a Statement on Minority Business Enterprise Development

December 17, 1982

Thank you. Must be a power failure; the light's out on the podium here. Well, I'll try to turn over in this light here.

Welcome to the White House, and thank you for being with us to recognize the vital role that minority business plays in this country. Our nation's 600,000 minority enterprises represent nearly 5 percent of the nonagricultural business. They also represent, I think, social mobility and economic advancement to millions of Americans.

Today, in signing this statement, we reaffirm our commitment to a healthy economy in general and to a vibrant and expanding minority business opportunity in particular. We believe that in the last 23 months, we've taken the steps that will bring the economic recovery our people want so badly.

Clearly, a general prosperity with growth, with low inflation, is the greatest single thing that this administration or any administration can provide for minority business and minority Americans. Our economy-building measures, our tax rate cuts, and regulatory reform will spur minority businesses just as they do to the entire business community.

In some cases, our program gives minority business an even greater boost than perhaps is seen at first glance. Our tax rate reductions, for example, should have a major impact on minority business. Since the large proportion of minority businesses are proprietorships and partnerships, they report their income as individuals and thus receive the full benefits of the across-the-board tax rate cuts.

And these same enterprises will continue to be helped, because the tax rates will be increased -- or, I mean, will be indexed, not increased. I don't know how that word slipped in -- [laughter] -- that was a Freudian slip -- [laughter] -- be indexed after 1984. And you know what that means, that no longer will the government be making a profit on inflation. Here again, all small businessmen are being helped with a minority enterprise and full participation.

Now, early in this century, Teddy Roosevelt said that it ought to be evident to everyone that business has to prosper before anybody can get any benefit from it. Well, just as the incredible productivity and efficiency of American business catapulted the standard of living of our people as a whole, we believe a thriving minority business community will be instrumental in bettering the lives of those formerly excluded from the prosperity enjoyed by most Americans. In signing this statement, we renew our pledge that as recovery takes hold, we're not leaving anybody behind.

Back in September, I spoke about this with the members of the National Black Republican Council. I know that some of you were there. And I said at that time that the administration would soon announce a program focusing on minority business development, including a commitment to increase the level of general procurement from minority-owned enterprises -- the general procurement by the Federal Government. And although it's taken longer than expected, today we're making good on that promise. Among the other items detailed in today's statement is a 10-percent increase of the minority business procurement objectives in 1983 over those of 1982. Over the next 3 fiscal years, our goal will be to purchase some $22 billion directly and indirectly from minority-owned businesses.

Increasing the procurement levels can be accomplished on our own, but we can't forget that enterprise zone legislation -- something that promises to do much to encourage growth in the inner cities -- is still tied up on the Hill. I know that Secretary Pierce [Samuel R. Pierce, Jr., Secretary of Housing and Urban Development] has spoken to you about that and went into detail on this important piece of legislation. But I want to add my feelings that it's about time that we get some action on this job-building legislation for the disadvantaged, and we'll continue to press for action on this vital legislation.

A great many of the so-called job projects that have been floated around up on the Hill are nothing more than pork-barrel items under the new name and taking advantage of unemployment in order to try and get pork-barrel projects for various, particular segments of the country. And we think that the enterprise zones is a real jobs program in addition to furthering, to a large extent, minority businesses in the inner cities. If there's one lesson that we should have learned over the last two decades, it is that focusing totally on government as a vehicle for social improvement is the least effective method of improving the lives of our people.

We're firmly committed to assuring our fellow citizens in the minority communities an equal opportunity to enjoy the profits of our competitive enterprise system. And given the proper incentives and a general environment for economic progress, American minority businesses can thrive and serve as a mighty engine for social progress.

And now, I'm going to go over and sign that paper, but again, I want to thank you all for being here.

Note: The President spoke at 11:47 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. The signing ceremony was attended by representatives of the small business community.