News Item: 78% of Americans say they can’t trust the federal government and do not believe in its ability to solve the nation’s problems (Pew Research).
What it means: 22% of Americans are not paying attention.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the structural unemployment problem the nation is facing and the challenge of government to create an environment in which many new jobs are created by the private sector. To accomplish this we would need congressmen who have practical business experience in the private sector.
So quick, name all the current congressmen you know who fit this description. There may be some, but I can’t name them. Okay so let’s lower the bar. Quick, name all the congressman you know who show any understanding of business or basic economic principles. I can name two.
I knew there was a problem in late 2008 after the credit crunch hit. As I watched my company’s orders fall off the cliff because our customers could not obtain credit, I thought that unless this problem was addressed quickly a major economic plunge would soon follow. At the time Congress was engaged in discussions about many things regarding the economy, but this was being ignored. Finally, Rep. Eric Cantor (R- Virginia) clearly stated the potential impact of the credit freeze on equipment spending. Yes, I thought. Someone gets it, maybe we can be saved! No, members of both parties seemed confused by Cantor’s statement and went on discussing possible actions that did not prevent or even slow down the recession.
Another defining moment happened recently during the “Healthcare Summit” which was supposed to be a discussion and debate about the proposed healthcare bill. You remember what a debate is supposed to be. You give your argument without name calling, or stupid sound bites and then the other person gives his argument and then you productively discuss the issue back and forth. The audience is educated by the discussion and then has ample knowledge on deciding for themselves which ideas they prefer. This is essential in a democracy and oh so lacking today.
During the summit, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) brought up some economic issues of the plan for discussion. The problem was that no one on the other side felt qualified or comfortable to engage him in debate. This was sad and embarrassing. President Obama was left hanging with no help. It wasn’t really his place to debate the details of these issues, so he made some meaningless comments and quickly changed the subject.
So we need many more people in Congress who have business and practical economic knowledge for the new challenges we face. We need small business owners who have experience building things, making payrolls and managing workers. We need people who have gotten their “hands dirty” and understand how the economy works at the ground level. We need these people in cabinet level positions also. We have plenty of buttoned down geeks who understand high finance, what we really need are people who understand low finance.
There must be a change soon. We send trillions of dollars of taxes to be spent by people who have no practical economic sense of how to spend it. Most are lawyers and career politicians. Again, would you give your investment money to a financial advisor who had no financial experience? Would you set up a trust with an executor who had no idea how to manage it? If you don’t understand business and practical economics, I don’t want you anywhere near my tax dollars and it doesn’t matter what party you belong to. And they are my tax dollars because originally they came out of my paycheck. Some politicians are so dense that they oppose the Tea Party movement not on principle, but because they really do not understand why these people are so angry.
But things may already be changing. In two house district primary elections near where I live, there are candidates with strong business experience. One has no political experience but owns several car dealerships. Would I vote for him (I don’t live in his district) in November over the political hacks who vote as the party tells them to and then read the talking points to explain their actions? I think I would.
Also it is interesting to see what is happening in California this year since this is where many trends originate. Two of the strong contenders in the primary elections are Meg Whitman former CEO of eBay (governor) and Carly Fiorina former CEO of Hewlett- Packard (Senate). While you can’t consider them “small” business people, these woman know how to balance a budget, manage people and make a payroll. I almost wish that I lived in California so I could vote for both of them.