The mission of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is to provide lending to entrepreneurs with great ideas who can’t find financing in the private marketplace. The public image is one financing the American Dream. But the reality is that the SBA is costly for taxpayers, and — even worse — it creates a painful human cost for the workers it dislocates.
OpenTheBooks recently published its Snapshot Oversight Report Truth in Lending: The U.S. Small Business Administration’s $24.2 Billion Bad Loan Portfolio. At Forbes, we documented $160 million in lending to private country clubs; $350 million in failed lending to just four hotel chains; $562 million lent to the convenience store/gas station industry — many franchises of Big Oil; and $2.2 billion in failed lending to failed restaurants, breweries, and wineries including Quiznos ($58.1 million) and Cold Stone Creamery ($49.1 million).
In general, we found that when the SBA (or any agency) gets into the business of picking winners and losers, the losers always win. An there’s always a cost to taxpayers either directly or indirectly, because wasting scarce dollars on unproductive enterprises diverts dollars away from productive enterprises. It’s a rigged game in which the house — politicians — always wins.