Make Wall Street Washington’s partner

Currently, the president is sending the financial community mixed messages. On the one hand, he is telling our banks that the government helped stabilize the financial meltdown by bailing them out. As a result, the banks owe an extraordinary effort to help accelerate the recovery by increasing lending to small and medium-sized businesses. On the other hand, the administration's bank regulators are forcing the banks to tighten credit standards so they make fewer risky loans. In addition, the regulators are requiring banks to write down performing loans on their balance sheets that are collateralized with devalued property. This write-down reduces a bank’s capital and its ability to make additional loans. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that government policy is contributing to a reduction in bank lending.

The demand for bank loans by small and medium-sized businesses has also declined because of the toxic political environment in Washington. Small and medium-sized businesses are reluctant to invest borrowed money in risky projects and hire additional employees given the political overhang. This overhang includes: a 10 percent increase in income taxes in 2010; a significant but unknown increase in healthcare costs; the prospect of unionization through card-check; an expected increase in energy costs through cap-and-trade and the Copenhagen conference; increased financial regulation; and anti-banking and -business rhetoric from both the White House and Congress.

Instead of using Wall Street as the whipping boy for the economy’s ills, the president should publicly praise Wall Street for creating the most effective capital market in the world. There is no other country in the world where capital is so easily available to small and medium-sized businesses. There is no other country where capital is so readily available to consumers for homes, cars and major appliances. Venture capital in America is the envy of the world and has created far more jobs than have been lost to free trade.

If the president truly wants to accelerate the economic recovery, he should ask the bankers on Wall Street to be his partner in the economic recovery. As part of this partnership he should ask them, not tell them, what they should do to accelerate economic recovery. The banks and Wall Street have a good, if not perfect, track record of financing America’s business and creating jobs. I am unaware of the president’s track record on job creation. Personally, I would rather trust the judgment of experienced job creators than the untested. If Wall Street is the president’s partner in the recovery, he may be surprised at how quickly the economy recovers.

Williams can be heard nightly on Sirius/XM Power 169 from 9 to 10 p.m.

Visit www.armstrongwilliams.com.