Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York delivered what was billed as a major speech on the state of our economy at the Washington Economic Club last week. A powerful, insightful, solidly grounded and stingingly harsh assessment of the futility of our current political climate and leadership, the Mayor’s contentions strongly resonated with his audience and evoked a standing ovation upon completion.
Here is my greatly simplified summary and translation:
Members of Congress and candidates for president routinely extol the virtues of helping business and the economy. Yet, in practice, they act with total irresponsibility by taking no action to catalyze improvement—even though our competitive infrastructure, educational and financial systems cry out for investment and rationality in legislation.
Among Congressional leaders and certain candidates for office, ideological purity overshadows authentic commitment to serving the best interests of our country and fellow citizens. As a result, there is pervasive uncertainty about the future, fear of the downside impact of continued intractability and ideological extremism—the fiscal cliff, for example—and a growing sense that our political system is broken and a path to resuscitation unclear.
Even though business has more than ample cash on hand, there is little inclination toward investment. Thus, continued slow rates of growth, high unemployment, growing disenchantment and frustration result.
Mr. Bloomberg’s assessments, I have to say, are directly in line with my own. As a small business owner, the incessant self-serving, morally corrupt, disingenuous, hypocritical and ideologically driven irresponsibility that currently passes for political leadership in our country leaves me appalled and deeply disheartened. To put it simply, Congress seems to have little if any understanding of the real needs of business (especially small), much less those of most Americans.
Imagine, if you would, being a part of a business that has within its talent base, creative and physical resources and the capability to define global standards for performance—think Apple, for example. But, rather than leveraging creativity and assets to reach and sustain its full potential, its leaders choose ideological posturing, ego-centric maneuvering and personal gain over careful analyses and business case-driven alignment around needs, opportunities, strategies and execution plans. In short, suppose the leaders of the business consciously chose to allow the best interest of the business to be compromised by inaction and subjugated in priority to philosophical grandstanding?
Just how long do you actually believe that top talent would be attracted to or remain at the company before seeking more rewarding opportunities? Is there any question that investors would soon begin to divert their funds to other, more promising ventures? Is it not reasonable to believe that those who chose to remain at the company would become highly cynical and less interested in having positive impact than receiving a guaranteed paycheck? Think General Motors before its recent resurgence.
This is the state of our country today. A Congress populated with increasing numbers of self-satisfied, second tier demagogues content to allow millions to suffer as they pursue extended philosophical debate, largely insulated from stark realities.
Any reasonable business leader understands that a combination of investment and efficiency are essential to success. With tax rates at a sixty year low, the life expectancy of large swaths of our populace declining and our competitiveness in terms of digital, communication, power, transportation, educational and utility infrastructure eroding rapidly, is it too much to ask for responsible action from Washington?
Were our political leaders to do the right thing, invest in infrastructure, education and essential services, put in place responsible legislation to solidify our still shaky financial sector, bring certainty to heath care and tax rates while signaling to the world that pragmatism, not extremist ideology drives America, just imagine the currently stagnant potential that would be unleashed as momentum shifted from conservation and caution to confident investment?
So, dear Congressional leaders, as you left DC for the long recess last week, your intractable irresponsibility and puerile refusal to compromise in the best interests of our country once again stifled and postponed opportunity for millions of Americans.
It’s time to stop this craziness, place service to country above personal and party gain, and take decisive action to restore faith and trust in our historically revered political system.
Just so that you know, come November 6, I plan to vote against your continuation in office. Who knows, perhaps enough others will do so as well, so that our dear country might actually have a chance to move forward in January 2013.
This is not just a pivotal election in terms of our presidency. Perhaps, it is even more important to change Congress than to choose the right occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.