The Young and Small Businesses Gain Under Biden

Heather Cox Richardson

In December 2020, when the pandemic illustrated the extraordinary disadvantage created by the inability of those in low-income households to communicate online with schools and medical professionals, then-president Trump signed into law an emergency program to provide funding to make internet access affordable. In 2021, Congress turned that idea into the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and made it part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law). 

The program has enabled 23 million American households to afford high-speed internet. Those benefiting from it are primarily military families, older Americans, and Black, Latino, and Indigenous households. In February, the Brookings Institution cited economics studies that said each dollar invested in the ACP increases the nation’s gross domestic product by $3.89 and that the program has led to increased employment and higher wages. It also cuts the costs of healthcare by replacing some in-person emergency room visits with telehealth.  

Slightly more of the money in the program goes to districts represented by Republicans than to those represented by Democrats, which might explain why 79% of voters want to continue the program: 96% of Democrats, 78% of Independents, and 62% of Republicans.

But the ACP is running out of money. Back in October 2023, President Joe Biden asked Congress to fund it until the end of 2024, and a bipartisan bill that would extend the program has been introduced in both chambers of Congress. Each remains in an appropriation committee. As of today, the House bill has 228 co-sponsors, the Senate bill has 5. 

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said he supports the measure, but House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has not commented. Judd Legum pointed out in Popular Information today that the 2025 budget of the far-right Republican Study Committee (RSC) calls for allowing the ACP to expire, saying the RSC “stands against corporate welfare and government handouts that disincentivize prosperity.” More than four fifths of House Republicans belong to the RSC. 

The differences between the parties’ apparent positions on the ACP illustrates the difference in their political ideology. Republicans object to government investment in society and believe market forces should be left to operate without interference in order to promote prosperity. Democrats believe that economic prosperity comes from the hard work of ordinary people and that government investment in society clears the way for those people to succeed. 

Wealth growth for young Americans was stagnant for decades before the pandemic, but it has suddenly experienced a historic rise. In Axios, Emily Peck reported that household wealth for Americans under 40 has risen an astonishing 49% from where it was before the pandemic. Wealth doubled for those born between 1981 and 1996. This increase in household wealth comes in part from rising home prices and more financial assets, as well as less debt, which fell by $5,000 per household. Households of those under 35 have shown a 140% increase in median wealth in the same time period.

Brendan Duke and Christian E. Weller, the authors of the Center for American Progress study from which Peck’s information came, say this wealth growth is not tied to a few super-high earners, but rather reflects broad based improvement. “A simple reason for the strong wealth growth is that younger Americans are experiencing an especially low unemployment rate and especially strong wage growth,” Duke and Weller note, “making it easier for them to accumulate wealth.” 

In honor of National Small Business Week, Vice President Kamala Harris today launched an “economic opportunity tour” in Atlanta, where she highlighted the federal government’s $158 million investment in “The Stitch,” a project to reconnect midtown to downtown Atlanta. This project is an initial attempt to reconnect the communities that were severed by the construction of highways, often cutting minority or poor neighborhoods off from jobs and driving away businesses while saddling the neighborhoods with pollution. 

While some advocates wanted to use the $3.3 billion available from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act to take down highways altogether, the administration has shied away from such a dramatic revision and has instead focused on creating new public green spaces, bike paths, access to public transportation, safety features, and so on, to link and improve neighborhoods. More than 40 states so far have received funding under this program. 

The administration says that projects like The Stitch will promote economic growth in neighborhoods that have borne the burden of past infrastructure projects. Today it touted the extraordinary growth of small businesses since Biden and Harris took office, noting that their economic agenda “has driven the first, second and third strongest years of new business application rates on record—and is on pace for the fourth—with Americans filing a record 17.2 million new business applications.” 

Small businesses owned by historically underserved populations “are growing at near-historic rates, with Black business ownership growing at the fastest pace in 30 years and Latino business ownership growing at the fastest pace in more than a decade,” the White House said. The administration has invested in small businesses, working to level the playing field between them and their larger counterparts by making capital and information available, while working to reform the tax code so that corporations pay as much in taxes as small businesses do.  

“Small businesses are the engines of the economy,” the White House said today. “As President Biden says, every time someone starts a new small business, it’s an act of hope and confidence in our economy.” 

In place of economic growth, Republicans have focused on whipping up supporters by insisting that Democrats are corrupt and are cheating to take over the government. Matt Gertz of Media Matters noted in February that “Fox News host Sean Hannity and his House Republican allies spent 2023 trying to manufacture an impeachable offense against President Joe Biden out of their fact-free obsession with the president’s son, Hunter.” At least 325 segments about Hunter Biden appeared on Hannity’s show in 2023; 220 had at least one false or misleading claim. The most frequent purveyor of that disinformation was Representative James Comer (R-KY), chair of the House Oversight Committee, who went onto the show 43 times to talk about the president’s son. 

The House impeachment inquiry was really designed to salt right-wing media channels with lies about the president and, in the end, turned up nothing other than witnesses who said President Biden was not involved in his son’s businesses. Then the Republicans’ key witness, Alexander Smirnov, was indicted for lying about the Bidens, and then he turned out to be in contact with Russian spies. 

Comer has been quietly backing away from impeaching the president until today, when he popped back into the spotlight after news broke that Hunter Biden’s lawyer has threatened to sue the Fox News Channel (FNC) for “conspiracy and subsequent actions to defame Mr. Biden and paint him in a false light, the unlicensed commercial exploitation of his image, name, and likeness, and the unlawful publication of hacked intimate images of him.” His lawyer’s letter calls out FNC’s promotion of Smirnov’s false allegations. 

Last year, FNC paid almost $800 million to settle defamation claims made by Dominion Voting Systems after FNC hosts pushed the lie that Dominion machines had changed the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. 

Legal pressure on companies lying for profit has proved successful. Two weeks ago, the far-right media channel One America News Network (OAN) settled a defamation lawsuit with the voting technology company Smartmatic. Today, OAN retracted a false story about former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, apparently made to discredit the testimony of Stormy Daniels about her sexual encounters with Trump. OAN suggested that it was Cohen rather than Trump who had a relationship with Daniels, and that Cohen had extorted Trump over the story.  

“OAN apologizes to Mr. Cohen for any harm the publication may have caused him,” the network wrote in a statement. “To be clear, no evidence suggests that Mr. Cohen and Ms. Daniels were having an affair and no evidence suggests that Mr. Cohen ‘cooked up’ the scheme to extort the Trump Organization before the 2016 election.”

Leave a Reply