In a conference call with bloggers this week, House Oversight chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) made a haunting observation: “There are no partners in America any more.”
He was talking about the exodus of American businesses to overseas, particularly those who seek manufacturing partners. “In 1980, when we came out of the Carter depression, we had a manufacturing base,” Issa reflected. “Today, if I had an idea for a product, I’d have to fly to Asia to find a manufacturing partner.”
He was thinking about General Electric’s recent decision to move a hundred-year-old X-ray plant from Wisconsin to Beijing. This is G.E., one of the MVPs of crony capitalism, whose CEO Jeff Immelt is a Presidential advisor. Specifically, he heads Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
Issa spoke of hearing from established businessmen who loathe the environment faced by today’s entrepreneurs, saying they “couldn’t do today what they did 35 years ago.” The business landscape has been fundamentally transformed for the worse… and it wasn’t free-market capitalists who did it.
The national debt was less than one trillion dollars when Jimmy Carter left office. President Obama likes to bring up Bill Clinton’s budget surplus when it suits him, but doesn’t mention that Clinton’s final budget spent only $1.7 trillion. That’s roughly equal to Obama’s budget deficit this year, and half what the federal government will spend in 2011. A serious proposal to reduce the size of government to Clinton levels would be immediately dismissed as utter madness, a complete non-starter.
Of course such a radical expansion of government has altered the private-sector landscape. The private sector inevitably contracts as the government grows. The economy can be guided by either regulators or innovators. Our destiny can be either the pursuit of opportunity, or obedience to the commands of politicians.
The reality of the global marketplace is a level of connection, and capital mobility, unimaginable only a century ago. Issa described General Electric as having a “global strategy.” It’s not that hard for a sizable company to have such a strategy, in an age of light-speed information transfer and jet-engine transportation. The global marketplace introduced a new idea that the business world is still trying to digest: governments must be competitive now.
Governments compete with one another to attract internationally mobile businesses. Read today’s dismal economic headlines, and you will see that the United States federal government is not competing very well. Some of the states are doing a much better job of attracting business than others. Rep. Issa joked that he hates Texas governor Rick Perry because he’s stealing all the jobs from Issa’s native California.
True economic competition is merciless to the losers. The current Administration is run by losers. Businesses that have the power to escape their clutches are doing so. Energy that could be poured into job-creating innovation and risk-taking is instead diverted to the far more urgent task of currying favor with the political class, to score waivers and subsidies. Getting chosen as a “winner” by Washington is more important than winning.
There are no partners in America any more, because every business has been compelled to accept the same massive, clueless, emotionally unstable, and incredibly dangerous senior partner – one that can never go out of business, lose his credentials, or be punished for breaking the law. Ask him to address a problem when there’s still time to deal with it, and he’ll call you a radical. Hold him responsible for waiting too long, and he’ll call you an extremist. He will never accept an ounce of blame for his mistakes, or take responsibility for failure, and he’s currently howling at the top of lungs that he will never, ever stop borrowing money.
Our universal senior partner is not sure why his brilliant plans aren’t working… but he’s pretty sure it’s your fault.