Controversial speech perfect start for new Forum

Kelly King got the Knoxville Economics Forum off to a rousing start on Friday, even if some of his assertions were a bit of a stretch. The loquacious chairman of BB&T Corp. brought the right mix of commentary, controversy and insight to the first of what I hope will be a long series of talks by distinguished speakers.

King caught some of those in the Forum’s audience off guard by pushing a political agenda. Clearly, anyone who says voters need to eliminate the “fundamentally socialist” attitude that controls Congress, is being politicial.

At first, I was put off by the tone of King’s remarks. But as I thought about his talk over the weekend it occurred to me that his speech was perfect for the Forum’s first event.

People were talking about what King said. He generated controversy. And that buzz will bring people back when the Forum schedules it’s next speaker.

The Forum, found by the University of Tennessee Department of Economics is considering several potential speakers, but has not scheduled the next event. Anyone with suggestions for future speakers can click here to send an e-mail the Forum.

Personally, I found King’s talk very interesting but I disagreed with a number of the points he made.

For example, King suggested that banks should not be blamed for the lack of credit available to business. Plenty of credit is available, he said, but businesses aren’t borrowing because they are too worried about healthcare reform, taxes, etc. to take on new debt.

Baloney. Banks are making it almost impossible for credit worthy businesses to get the capital they need to expand their companies and create new jobs.

Banks may have slashed lending, but the Small Business Administration recently reported that it provided a record $1.59 billion in financing to small business in fiscal year 2010.

To be sure, the slow pace of recovery gives all of us plenty to worry about, but to suggest that businesses have no appetite for borrowing is just flat wrong.