We’ve often said in this blog that more federal small-business contracts should go to actual small businesses. That’s the law. Of course, the U.S. government (and every other government on the planet) can always find ways around the law and that’s why $65 billion worth of federal small-business contracts have gone to large corporations. But President Obama has seen the light. “It is essential that we provide our nation’s small businesses with maximum practicable opportunity to participate in federal government contracting,” he said a couple days ago. Setting a goal of 23 percent of contracts going to small businesses, he directed Tootsie Roll heiress (and SBA chief) Karen Mills to hop to it. And Mills did, announcing an SBA “outreach” campaign of 200 events in the next three months to share information on government contracting opportunities with small businesses. (Random rant: how do you get to be a Tootsie Roll heiress anyway? Does anybody actually eat those things? Even trick-or-treaters leave them in the bottom of the bag. End of rant.)
ASBL says not so fast. You’re right to be skeptical of any government program with the word “outreach” attached to it. Lloyd Chapman is. Chapman heads the American Small Business League [http://www.asbl.com/] and is a frequent, fiery critic of government’s longtime practice of fraudulently diverting small-business contracts to big companies. He calls the Obama announcement “just another public relations ploy.” He says that, of all the money allocated under the Recovery Act, only 1 percent has gone to small businesses. Chapman argues there won’t be real reform till Congress passes the Fairness and Transparency in Contracting Act, which he says will “boost the economy and root out liars, con men, shams and crooked politicians.” (Tall order there, Lloyd. We suspect this would require something more than an act of Congress — like maybe an invasion of ethical, beneficent and all-powerful space geniuses — but we wish you luck.)
Things that go clunk in your life. The Obama administration’s “cash for clunkers” program is a big hit. Consumer Reports says virtually all cars traded in are gas guzzlers and virtually all cars bought are economy models. Auto sales are up. Even GM is rehiring workers and boosting production. Which got us thinking: why stop there? How about a government incentive to trade in some of the other clunkers in life? Like our clunker laptop, which is slower than a ’72 VW and overheats just as often. Or our clunker TV, clunker cellphone and clunker microwave. Think of the possibilities. Clunker girlfriend, clunker job! All upgraded with a little government sweetener. Thanks Mr. President!
Really weird product of the week: chastity belts for men. This news reaches us from a website called Fun Reports. It’s a Russian site, which means it’s full of odd items that seem to serve some anti-Western propaganda purpose. But it is indeed fun. The site claims a growing number of women in Europe are demanding that their, um, significant others wear chastity belts. Yikes. “One quick look is enough to make you shudder at such antihuman invention of the mankind,” says Fun Reports, adding that the mancuffs are especially popular among female bosses who “have a fondness for hiring young men from developing countries for sexual favors and make their young studs wear chastity belts to protect them against their own frivolous behavior. Modern gigolos are ready to stand any humiliation for money.” Our young stud days are long gone, although we’re still happy to stand any humiliation for money (see our archive). But we draw the line at chastity belts. Not that anyone’s asking. But still.