I suspect that I am not alone among my colleagues in feeling somewhat betrayed by your hopelessly off target quasi-editorial on the fate of the Small Business Administration ("Beyond Uncle Sam and His Gifts," Washington, May).

As the executive director of the nation's largest local small-business group, and as a founder of Small Business United (SBU), I thought I understood a few things about political action and small-business advocacy. My impression was that my job entailed promoting political issues that will enhance small business, and opposing those that would damage the small-business community. Your article seems to indicate that there is something un-American about protecting the special interests of small business.

The SBA isn't perfect. Little in government is. But since 1981, the Defense Department's budget has increased by more than 90% (and we know how efficiently those guys spend money), and the SBA's budget has been cut by more than 25%. SBU's position is that to deny the nation's 14 million small-business owners their only independent advocate in government in the name of fiscal restraint is ludicrous. We have offered to conduct a tough-minded review of the SBA's programs with an eye on eliminating those that don't work -- but we're not prepared to watch the agency be subjected to wholesale evisceration based on Mr. Stockman's biases. My guess is that Congress will share our point of view.


The author replies: Mr. Polk's strong personal reaction to my article tends to confirm my feeling that many small-business lobbyists have spent too much time worrying about the SBA. He writes of feeling "betrayed," and suggests that I consider him "un-American" because I argued that fighting to save the SBA might not be the best political strategy for small-business advocates in 1985, a year when such far-reaching economic issues as tax reform will be considered by Congress. It is perfectly American to disagree about these things, but I still think that until lobbyists like Mr. Polk stop relying on the SBA for identity and start participating in the big-time economic debates on Capitol Hill, small business will continue to get short shrift in Washington.

Steve Coll