In Search of Capitalism at the Capitol - From the Chairman
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SECTION: From the Chairman

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In Search of Capitalism at the Capitol

By Bennett Closner

Article Date: 06-01-2009
Copyright(C) 2009 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.


Political disconnect with business reality can be remedied - by us! 

It is a Friday afternoon and 50 of us are soon headed home after attending the AED Government Affairs Conference. The diverse group was composed of “D.C. regulars” and others here for the first time.


The two-day event was informative in many ways. Our group had dialogues with several congressmen. We also heard from fellow trade associations that are aligned with our interests and specialists who track the mood of Congress. Many AED attendees also met privately with their senators, representatives and/or members of their staff. Adding to the flavor of the week were such unscheduled happenings as: a senator switching parties, the Democratic Party achieving 60 members in the Senate, a Supreme Court justice announcing his retirement, and a major car company’s bankruptcy. All in all, it was an unforgettable week to be in the nation’s capital. Each of us has captured his or her own impressions and thoughts on how we might make a difference. Mine are below.


To me, capitalism now seems out of vogue at the Capitol. Profit is almost a dirty word. No one talks about encouraging financial rewards equal to the risks taken. Supply side economics has been discredited. Economic growth is now thought to best be derived from the “bottom-up,” where government payments and incentives to individuals will theoretically stimulate the economy and resulting profits will flow upward to business owners.

Individuals cannot relate to the word trillion, yet several trillion dollars of federal spending has been authorized in the first 100 days of this administration. Healthcare reform is on the horizon and will cost many hundreds of billions. I never heard the word million mentioned once.

Businessmen seem to be absent from the legislative process, but not by choice. Legislation is being crafted by politicians, lawyers, academics, and bureaucrats – all racing to correct past wrongs, with little concern for cost. I heard that real wealth is reached when earning $200,000 per year (but found little understanding of the relationship between S Corporations and the individual taxpayer). The concept of “small business” in the mind of some members of Congress seems to be a company with three or four employees. The comment that “95 percent of all taxpayers will see a reduction in taxes” was oft repeated, but never substantiated.

Still, there were some bright spots. It was refreshing to find some congressmen (usually with business backgrounds) who understood the nuances of LIFO accounting, the need for highway fund reauthorization, the consequences of “card check,” etc. Most surprising was the discovery that an individual does make a difference. There appears to be a true interest among Congress to hear directly from the voter. Trade associations are a very important part of the process, but the impact of the individual voter talking face to face with Congress should not be underestimated.

I found our system of government awe-inspiring. With no prior notice, I was able to walk into a Senate hearing. Once inside, I watched as Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) debated with the man sitting several feet from me, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.


In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, columnist David Brooks wrote “…the United States will never be Europe. It was born as a commercial republic. It is addicted to the pace of commercial enterprise. After periodic pauses, the country inevitably returns to its elemental nature.” Later in the article, Brooks continued, “…one thing we can be sure of is that this pause will not last. The cultural DNA of the past 400 years will not be erased.”

Our county is built on capitalism. Harvard economist Joseph Schumpeter defined the essence of capitalism, when he said, “It incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. The process of creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”

I think the executive branch and Congress may sometimes forget how the process of capitalism works, and now may be one those times. It is up to each of us to remind them. Please be a part of the process. Start now. Then join us next year at the Government Affairs Conference. It will be – unforgettable.


Toby Mack and I welcome your comments and input. Write to us
both at: jtm@aednet.org and
bennett@closner.com.


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