Every morning when the United States Senate convenes, Senate Chaplain Barry Black opens each session with a prayer to guide the senators throughout their day.
Black, a retired Navy rear admiral with 20 years service, has delivered some tough admonitions of late on “the unfortunate dialectic of us versus them.”
“Have mercy upon us, oh God, and save us from the madness,” Black prayed Thursday morning. “We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness, our selfishness, and our pride. Create in us clean hearts, oh God, and renew a right spirit within us.”
But here’s the line that really got me to sit up and take note: “Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.”
Now that said it all. Preach the word, preacher.
As anyone who follows this blog knows, I write about business trends and how it affects corporate investment (primarily site selection) and economic development (competitiveness for communities.) As a consultant for hire, this is my bailiwick. I tend to shy away from politics, because I don’t want half of you out there hating me.
Government’s profound effect
But the truth is that government – whether it be through laws, policies, regulations, action and/or inaction – has a profound effect and influence upon corporate investment in this country and all over world for that matter.
As part of a site selection process, and it is a process to which I speaking about this coming week at the Texas Data Center Summit in Dallas, government regulation, permitting, taxation and the like, goes a long way in determining if a place is best suited for a particular kind of investment. In a broad brush way, government is often a key component to whether a community has a “business friendly” environment. (I spoke to one real estate developer last week who told me that it took him 6 ½ years to get a piece of property rezoned.)
For years, there has been a faction of the Republican party, a minority to be sure, that believes that government is the enemy, the root cause for much of the nation’s problems. This can be sourced back to President Ronald Reagan who famously said that the federal government was not the solution but the problem.
In fact, Reagan was a master of government and used it in ways to provide solutions. A new book is out by Chris Matthews – Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked – reveals that President Reagan was quite deft at the art of compromise with then Democrat House Speaker Tip O’Neil in forging and passing legislation.
Real governing can mean growth
Reagan and O’Neil, stalwarts in their own respective partisan camps, were able to get past blame-game rhetoric, develop a personal relationship, and thereby find ways to accommodate, if not partially, the other side to make government function.
And it’s my belief that their collaborative effort provided for stability and economic prosperity. In short, the business community responded favorably by investing. Fifty-five months after the recession started in July 1981, the Reagan recovery had created 7.8 million more jobs than when the recession started, and real per capita gross domestic product was up by $3,091.
Fifty-five months after the recession that began in December 2007, there were 4 million fewer Americans working than when the recession started, and real per capita GDP was down $803. That would indicate, at least to me, that Corporate America does not have great confidence in the current environment in terms of capital investment and job creation. The Progressive Policy Institute estimated companies have delayed spending by as much as $2.2 trillion since 2008.
The cards dealt us
Today we have an intellectual if not professorial president who has not displayed the schmoozing skills of a Reagan or a Bill Clinton and who only fairly recently began inviting Republican senators to the White House for dinner.
Pair that with the fact that you have a modern-day know-nothing wing of the Republican party, mostly House members, who detest this president and will not concede that he is in office legitimately. They have proved that they will do virtually anything to thwart any and all policies coming from this administration. If Jesus Christ were to return and step foot on the White House grounds, they would deny it.
This Tea Party faction took office not to govern, but to destroy. And it is through their efforts that they have hi-jacked what I consider and venerate as the once Grand Old Party, the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.
This may come as a hard blow to certain people – particularly those left and right who want to hate and demonize the other side — but I will say it nonetheless: I can actually respect the tenants of both liberalism (now re-termed as “progressive”) and conservatism. I find neither particularly threatening if and when practiced by reasonable, thoughtful people who understand that government is the art of compromise.
Which is why I have every intention of reading Matthew’s Tip and the Gipper.
Business askance with GOP?
Be aware that the current shutdown is costing the U.S. economy $300 million a day, according to IHS, a global market research firm. And it may signal a shift of sorts, a reconfiguration and a shifting of power. Judging from the comments I hear from business leaders, they are rethinking whether the Republican party is the party of business.
From the austerity imposed by the sequestration to the refusal to reform immigration laws to the shutdown and now another debt ceiling showdown, when the U.S. borrowing authority expires on Oct. 17, let’s just say the GOP’s actions have put a strain on its relationship with certain previously supportive CEOs.
For years, business people have been asking for at least a modicum of stability so as to make prudent business decisions on investment. Washington has been offering anything but that. And increasingly, the GOP is taking the heat.
Get over it, it’s the law
Look, Obamacare is law. It passed both houses of Congress. It was signed by the president. It was upheld by a conservative Supreme Court. Now it matters not if you like it or not (I’m personally taking a wait-and-see mode), it is the law of the land.
If Congress in its wisdom (now that is an oxymoron) wants to amend the law by passing a new law, that’s one thing. Have at it, boys and girls. But shutting down the government because a minority faction of legislators do not want a law enacted, well, that’s a whole different matter. You don’t hold the government hostage for such a lame-brained reason. That’s not the way government was designed to work.
Be clear that there is no exit strategy at work here. There never was. Was this Tea Bag minority so delusional as to really believe that the president would just keel over and dismantle, in whole or in part, the hallmark of his administration?
Again, Obamacare may prove to be good or bad (keep in mind that even the most conservative retirees do love their Medicare), but presidents going back to Teddy Roosevelt have been talking about a national healthcare system that would be accessible and affordable to all. It boils down to a philosophical belief on whether health care is a right. That concept is not currently embraced by the Republican Party, which means they’re on the wrong side of history on this.
Lunacy at work
So in a poorly-hatched scheme to somehow derail Obamacare, they shut down the government and what is even worse, flirt with the prospect of allowing the U.S. government to default on its debt. Folks, that’s not conservatism. That’s just damn lunacy. You don’t spit on Superman’s cape and you don’t mess around with the faith and credit of the United States government, which absolutely must pay its bills.
If a default were to happen, the consequences to the economy could be catastrophic. The Treasury Department warned Thursday that a failure to raise the debt ceiling could lead to a financial crisis and recession even more damaging than the financial crisis of 2008.
A failure of the U.S. to pay its obligations if the debt limit is not raised “would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic,” Treasury said in a brief report intended for members of Congress and also released publicly by the agency.
“Credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, U.S. interest rates could skyrocket, the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world, and there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse,” the report said.
Is that what you want, Ted? Is that your end game?
Grownups must take control
The only reason why I am deviating into politics in this blog is because too much is at stake in terms of not just my business as a consultant for industry and economic development groups, but for all business. Folks, this is important stuff.
Now it’s true that we have had shutdowns of the federal government in the past, 17 to be exact. Wall Street, more so than the business community, views Congress as a bunch of idiots but who will at the end of the day figure things out and do the safe thing.
But this Tea Party minority, which has undue sway in the Republican Party, is a different crew. We’ve never had a group quite like this before — suicide bombers with the American economy.
Look, the GOP already has a history of putting off immigrants, young people, minorities, suburban women. And now they want to alienate the business community? No, the grownups have to take control and wrench the party back from the influence of these waacko birds.
This isn’t just politics. This is business, and the economy is at stake. As Senate Chaplain Barry Black said in his prayer on Thursday, “save us from the madness.” Preach it, preacher.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dean Barber is the president/CEO of Barber Business Advisors, LLC, a site selection and economic development consulting firm based in Plano, Texas.
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