Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Nixon's Civil Rights 15

In my reading of Nixon's Civil Rights, Dean Kotlowski continues to talk about President Richard Nixon's support for minority-owned businesses.

Much of what I read concerned procurement, which is the government hiring minority firms to do certain tasks or purchasing needed goods from minority businesses. Overall, this increased under President Nixon. Kotlowski states on page 144: "Between 1969 and 1975, 8(a) procurement from minority firms sprang from $9 million to $250 million. During the years 1970-1975, purchases from minority businesses increased 265 percent, to $475 million." But there were times when Nixon wavered in his support for procurement. For instance, at one point, he "rejected goals for construction contracts" (page 143), and Kotlowski speculates that this was because Nixon opposed rigid quotas and at that time was trying to downplay affirmative action in an attempt to reach out to white blue-collar constituents. Nixon also had a "budget-slashing mind-set" when it came to the federal budget because he was seeking to "restrain inflation through wage and price controls and spending cuts" (page 146). And so, although Nixon himself often supported helping minority firms, some of his aides felt a need to fight for increased funding for that agenda.

I was also intrigued that there were prominent Republicans who supported Nixon's policies in favor of minority businesses. Governor Ronald Reagan of California, for instance, said that the Small Business Administration was providing minority businesses with boot-straps, and John Tower "denied that 'more business opportunities for minorities' meant diminished opportunities for other groups, since America boasted 'substantial amounts' of untapped capital and resources" (page 144). But Reagan as President slashed funding for the Office of Minority Business Enterprise, and President Bill Clinton continued to have a low budget for OMBE during the "frugal nineties", as well as "declared a three-year ban on new set-aside programs" (pages 148-149).

A downside to Nixon's policy was that it had corruption, as the Nixon Administration used funding for small businesses to buy or reward support for the President. As Kotlowski notes, that sort of corruption was hardly new. But, in my opinion, it does taint Nixon's otherwise remarkable accomplishment of helping minority businesses to start and to advance.

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