How should business POLITICALLY respond to the DYSFUNCTIONAL Federal policy process?

Posted: 09/14/2011 in General Information, Member Experts, Where We Stand
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Bob VanDeventer PhotoTo Our Members …

This short article from our partner, BIPAC, gives us something important to consider as our country continues to work through this challenging economic time.


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written by Greg S. Casey

The partisan political brinkmanship preceding the debt ceiling vote in August was disheartening to most Americans.  The Administration and Congress seemed incapable of demonstrating to a watching world that the U.S. can make even the most basic decisions to correct its fiscal course. Although a compromise decision was reached, allowing the nation to meet its financial obligations for now, the process was anything but reassuring and it kicked the can to a “Super Committee” which could invite more of the same.  Certainly, decision-makers need to know Americans expect better and they will be held accountable for outlandish behavior. The question is how.

Circulating in CEO circles is a message from one of their colleagues essentially suggesting business should withhold their political support from any incumbent member of Congress until they solve the deficit and debt problem for the long term.  The message further suggests business should begin hiring people as part of their responsibility to participate in economic recovery.  This CEO, like millions of his fellow Americans, is justifiably frustrated with the fiasco that has been Washington deliberations of late.  He is beyond anxious to see statesmanship in resolving the critical fiscal issues that vex the nation.  He rightly admonishes his colleagues to get involved.  I understand the CEO’s frustration but his suggestions may make matters worse, not better.

You can’t change bad behavior without also recognizing the good.  There are plenty of policy-makers of both political persuasions who understand the need for focused statesmanship but they have been marginalized by the extremes.  Simply withholding business support from everyone, including those who business might otherwise support, accrues to the benefit of those candidates businesses would never support anyway.  It is a kind of unilateral disarmament that encourages the extremes because it increases the importance of the contributions the opposing point of view is certain to make.
Worse, it signals to those who have or might be inclined to do the right thing, business will cut and run if the outcomes don’t meet their expectations. Business must be smarter and more strategic than that.  An effective process to change bad behavior (and it IS a process) begins with decisions based on how Members of Congress actually vote rather than access, their seniority, political affiliation or the ugliness of the process itself. Concerned businesses should establish a clear standard to guide their political support decisions. The standard should be business-based and intellectually
honest.  This standard should be communicated not only to candidates and incumbents, but to employees and other stakeholders along with tools to facilitate their advocacy of the business point of view.  Those who act consistent with that standard should be supported while those who don’t, should be opposed.  Fortunately, many of the more politically active businesses already have such a system in place.  It is time others, like the company making the aforementioned suggestions, do the same.

I also find the suggestion that businesses should begin “hiring people” just to spur economic recovery incredibly counterproductive. The sour economy wasn’t created by business not hiring enough people. Hiring people to fix the sour economy is like papering over a hole in the wall.  The hole is still there.  There are significant and profound reasons the economy went off track and those issues must be realistically addressed by serious people before the economy can truly recover.

Resolving the underlying impediments to economic recovery will be difficult and time consuming.  Businesses can and should play a key role in shaping the solutions, particularly as the “Super Committee” begins to deliberate. To do so, businesses must be proactive not reactive.  We cannot expect sober and thoughtful deliberations if we ourselves are not equally thoughtful in our involvement.


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