Sunday, June 17, 2012

I’m Voting For Ross Perot (just 20 years too late)

The main arguments against the President of the United States needing corporate business experience are:

1.     It’s not really needed since presidents have functioned fine without it.

2.     The last time we tried it (Herbert Hoover), it was a disaster.
In response the second argument: People are still trying to figure out what caused the Great Depression and while Hoover made mistakes, I don’t think his business background caused him to make bad decisions.  And I don’t think the notion “we tried that once 83 years ago and it didn’t work” holds much validity in 2012.

The first argument merits more discussion.  In the past we have elected many successful military generals as presidents.  This is logical because the men proved themselves leaders on the battlefield.  More importantly if the biggest threat facing the country was another war, who better to lead the country than a former general?  In times of peace, we go for politicians but we still tend to favor those with executive government experience (governors and mayors).

There have been successful presidents who have not had much first-hand business knowledge.  So it is true that corporate business experience was not needed in the to be an effective president. 

However the world has changed greatly in the last 25 years.  The United States has gained more military superiority which reduces the chances of fighting a defensive war.  But we also lost much of our economic superiority as the “world economy” blossomed.  In addition many industries were deregulated which fostered competition, but it also increased the complexity and variability of our economy.  The biggest challenge we face today is worldwide economic competition.  What do you fear most: China’s military or China’s manufacturing?

A President of the United States may not have needed business acumen in the past, but will definitely need it in the future.  If you are expected to manage an economy, it helps to understand one.  And we know what the alternative is: Career politicians produce more politics and less action.

We have not had a “Business-President” in a long time.  The last business-presidential candidate we had was Ross Perot in 1992. 

Perot’s main message was:

1.     Government spending was out of control and we shouldn’t borrow money to pay for our reckless spending.

2.     Government programs, including Social Security and Medicare, were very poorly managed and in need of major reforms.

3.     Both political parties were irresponsible and lacked the backbone to stop the spending and fix the problems.

And now 20 years later it is obvious that Perot was correct and a visionary.  Visionaries are mocked because they see the truth long before other people do.  Perot described the situation in 1992 by using an array of charts and graphs (precursor to a PowerPoint presentation) and the expression “giant sucking sound” (to describe jobs leaving America).  Many people dismissed Perot because he looked funny, he talked funny and he sounded like a crazy man.   But knowing what you know now if you could go back in time, who would you vote for president in 1992?
Provided Perot could accomplish his goals in eight years as president and turn the reins over to a like-minded leader in 2000, how much better off would we be today?  Sure we still would have had recessions due to the business cycle, but we would be so much better off economically that we are now. And it doesn’t matter who you blame for the current mess. Clinton, Bush and Obama have all contributed.  

So the last time we had an opportunity to elect a candidate with strong business experience, we did not do it.  This was a mistake the country (myself included) made and we have paid enormously for this choice for the last 20 years. The problems are now much worse and we are running out of time.  Elections matter and corporate business experience is vitally important.  Where will we be 20 years from now if we don’t get our financial house in order soon?

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