The True Cost of American Politics

While the Democrats bask in the afterglow of their convention and the Republicans seethe over the numerous snipes, half-truths, outlandish claims, and hyperbole (a mirror image of last week’s convention) the economy continues to plod along, going nowhere. Their lofty idyllic speeches talk over and around the truth, the American Dream is dying and their politics are killing it.

I’m writing today’s Brief from a hotel room in Gulfport, Mississippi while visiting my newest granddaughter and her thrilled young parents. Downstairs in the hotel there’s a booming business thriving as the casino rakes in the hard-earned dollars of the belabored middle class we hear so much about from the politicians.

Just a few years ago, the casinos were confined to the waters of the Gulf on boats which were relatively small, out of necessity. But when Katrina washed them all ashore, destroying them, most said they could not afford to ‘re-float’ their businesses. Local politicians, afraid of losing their tax revenues, caved and allowed them to build their bigger and grander casinos on dry land to attract many more gambling patrons. Now isn’t that a great picture of  government conscience protecting the middle class?

Upon arriving yesterday afternoon, I went straight to the hospital to find my beautiful daughter and granddaughter. The moment my daughter placed her in my arms, the world and all of its ugliness melted away. I was lost in the wonder and potential of this incredible new life as I gazed into the tiny bright eyes of this precious little person who already possessed her unique personality, curiosity, talents, and even purpose. I prayed she would discover that purpose early in her life.

When it was time for feeding, I offered to take Derek, the proud new papa out for dinner. Weary of hospital food and anxious to grt outside for a little while, he eagerly accepted. It wasn’t long before we began talking about his hopes and dreams about providing for his growing family. One of Derek’s real strengths, and charms, is his strong sense of responsibility. Another is his intense desire to do well at anything he attempts.

Shortly after marriage, Derek was encouraged by some family friends to build his career in the commercial appraisal business. Loving people, being outside, and building things with tenacity and hard work, he thought it sounded like a great opportunity. But the real estate appraisal business is one that requires years of apprenticeship, because no one hires appraisers without experience. The in-depth and expensive testing and licensing process took about a year, which he completed in Derek style. Unfortunately, when he was ready to become productive, the poor economy had eliminated the company’s ability to hire him.

Many might have seen it as a year and a huge investment down the drain. But being who he was, Derek didn’t let this unfortunate turn defeat his dreams of making a future for his family in Ocean Springs. During his study time with the appraisal company, he had worked in landscaping for a large real estate developer affiliated with the appraisers. There he discovered an opportunity to build a business.

So he pooled his savings to buy the minimum assets necessary to start a sod-laying landscaping company which would be devoted to new home construction. A year later, he has four full-time employees and is delighted to be supervising the work at his numerous job sites rather than baking himself in the hot southern Mississippi sun.

Derek’s services are the most sought after in town and his business is growing because of his quality and dependability. But his American Dream is now being squeezed from both sides; big business on the one and government reach on the other. The promise of this thriving small business may not be realized because of forces mostly beyond his control.

Derek’s services are employed by the largest developer in town for one reason – quality. Derek takes pride in his work, because it has his name on it. But not long ago he learned that DH Horton, a large national builder, is buying out his top customer. He is being told that because he has been the preferred provider, he will be given the chance to bid for the much larger contracts that DH Horton will be letting.

But here’s the catch and you probably guessed it – low bid wins, quality notwithstanding. Derek insists that he is not going to price jobs that he cannot do well and profit from. An administrator in Ohio will make the final decision which company gets hired based purely on the numbers, without ever meeting Derek or his co-bidders.

What about the squeeze from the other end – government regulation? Mr. Obama’s new healthcare law has a nasty (probably unconstitutional) requirement that all business owners with more than 50 workers provide their full-time employees with health insurance. Derek does not hire close to that number now, but he might in the not-so-distant future if he is able to convince the Ohio pencil-pusher of the merits of hiring his company. At that point he will be faced with the ugly choice of paying a fine of $2,000 per employee or picking up individual health insurance for each employee at considerable greater ongoing costs – likely, just about the size of his profits.

So there you have it, a micro view of what is happening to the American dream, quality of workmanship, oh and jobs. The Democrats say that the jobs lost via the mandate will be replaced by increased healthcare workers. Now there’s a great one. Think of it this way: when the guys who used to fix your car aren’t there any more, and you find yourself mowing your own lawn, and that great little hardware store down the street shutters it’s doors for good, won’t you be glad to know that the hospital has twice as many nurses?

Healthcare is a noble and vital part of our economy and lives. But the politicians are literally threatening it and the American Dream with their ill-purposed medling. Their reach exceeds their understanding of what truly drives an economy, a marketplace, and a business. A thriving economy is propelled by innovation, competition, and the profit motive. The politicians’ growing reach for power and control squeeze the very life from economies and from the spirits of all the Dereks in this great land who are chasing their dreams. Wake up America and save the dream. Our future is not found in politicians.