WHILE LISTENING IN ON THE DEbate over the future of the SBA at the recent White House Conference on Small Business, an idea occurred to us that might put the controversy in better perspective: push ahead with plans to abolish the Small Business Administration, and establish instead a Big Business Administration, to be known as the BBA.
Clearly, it is big business that now could use a boost from government. Since 1980, Fortune 500 profits have slid 14.3%, and sales have failed to keep up with inflation. Total employment is down 1.9 million. If government can't help out folks at troubling times like this, when can it?
One could imagine several divisions within the new Big Business Administration. An Office of Mergers and Acquisitions could advise corporate executives on moving assets around without creating jobs or wealth. An Office of Corporate Compensation could provide low-interest loans to help executives structure leveraged buyouts. An Office of Big Business Advocacy might help big business win contracts from public- and private-sector purchasing agents who have turned to smaller suppliers for goods and services at reasonable prices. An independent BBA financing arm, Drexel Mae, might insure corporate junk bonds against default.
Several government agencies that currently exist to serve big-business interests surely could be consolidated into the BBA, at a savings to taxpayers. The Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Communications Commission, the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, and the Securities and Exchange Commission immediately come to mind. One can also imagine transferring large portions of the Departments of Commerce and Energy as well.
But the BBA would have importance that extends beyond the subsidies and advocacy it offers. Its Washington headquarters would also give symbolic expression to the importance big business once held for the American republic -- a monument that tourists might visit when in Washington as they visit the other national memorials. The agency might even organize a White House Conference on Big Business and hope the President would attend.
Although it is a bit premature to consider personnel for the agency, we would nominate Metromedia Inc.'s John Kluge for consideration as head of the BBA. Kluge, as you may remember, made millions of dollars by speculating in government broadcasting licenses, then bought the whole empire back from his shareholders and sold it off in pieces for several billion. With such a solid record, perhaps no American is better qualified to represent the nation's large corporations to a skeptical Congress and a doubting public.
The BBA is an idea whose time has come. Write your congressman and senator today.