Why Small Business Owners MUST Become Politically Involved in 2010

by Jeffrey S. Deckman 21. December 2009 13:38

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We Need to Take Matters Into Our Own Hands

Its not enough to simply run your business anymore.


Jeffrey S. Deckman, Founder Capability Accelerators www.capabilityaccelerators.com

Policies drive economies.

Politics drive policies.

Politicians determine the politics.

Elections determine the politicians.

Remember this formula. It details a little acknowledged chain of events which determine much about how a region’s economy functions, especially in Rhode Island.

I am certain that the last thing you need as a business person in this economy is “one more thing to do”, but some things are important. So this article is going to urge you to make yourself, as a business person in Rhode Island, politically relevant in the 2010 elections.

One of the primary reasons our state’s economy is in the dumpster is because of the decisions made by the General Assembly on Smith Hill. For decades the people in the General Assembly have consistently supported the creation of and the funding of many social programs. While this is a necessary component of a civilized government another component is insuring the same level of support for pro-economic development programs which promote sustainable private sector business and employment growth. 

Unfortunately the political culture of Rhode Island does not values these two sectors equally.

As a result we now are facing a scenario in which our elected officials have neglected to care for the revenue generating portion of our society which means the goose which lays the golden eggs is suffering and so is everyone else. Our businesses are hemorrhaging and they are bleeding jobs.

The reason for this is in large part is because we elect people who are far too focused on taking the golden eggs instead of nurturing the goose that lays them. As a result the goose is now too emaciated to provide the gold and things are getting worse. 

We currently find ourselves in an economic death spiral that no one in the General Assembly seems to know how to stop. The national economy is bad and ours is much worse.

This means that two things are on your immediate horizon from the General Assembly:

More pressure on the business community (aka you and your livelihood)

More taxes on the business community (aka you and your livelihood)

The reason these are coming is that the general consciousness of many in power is that the business community is rich and therefor can pay for anything forever. And when the majority is against you they get to create the tax rates and regulations and you get to follow them, or else.

This is when democracy borders upon mob rule. When democratic systems become out of balance and border on collapse, unfairness abounds. It can get to be like two wolves and a golden goose voting on what’s for lunch. You get the point.

But no matter what kind of operation you are, be it a business or a government or a school system, you simply can’t spend without nurturing and protecting your revenue sources. At some point the laws of “financial physics” kick in and there just isn’t anymore money to take. You can’t starve the goose and expect it to still produce eggs. All of us who are in business know this type of thinking always results in insolvency.  

But it is easier and simpler to take eggs than it is to understand how to keep the goose healthy. Anyone can take eggs. But it takes a real understanding of the complexity of the goose, its habitat and food sources to keep it healthy and productive.  

However, when you look at the make up of the General Assembly you see that it possesses very few people who understand or respect business (the goose). So it makes perfect sense, now that the economy is deathly ill, that they are pretty clueless about what to do to bring it back to health. Most of them simply don’t understand businesses or government’s impact upon it. If they did they wouldn’t have put us in this place to begin with. 

Unfortunately, for all of us this lack of understanding and/or caring is extreme and has been for decades. Which explains the main reasons the Rhode Island economy always lags behind the rest of the country. 

But we must take responsibility for where we find ourselves. We consistently vote people into office at the General Assembly who either do not understand how to develop job creating economic development programs or simply don’t care about them. 

For instance, Rhode Island ranks 49th out of the 50 states in funding our economic development. The leading states spend in excess of $40.00 per capita on economic development. We spend a mere $3.00 per capita, beating only Georgia. 

Then the General Assembly criticizes the effectiveness of the EDC? Go figure.

So now what?

Well, first let me say that this article is neither a personal attack on anyone nor is it an attack against any political party. I frankly don’t really care which political party is in charge I only care about how the individual politicians think about economic development and sustainable job creation. 

Since I am a fan of a healthy economy I also tend to be a fan of politicians who like them as well. So, I work to help get them elected even if they aren’t in my district because, in my mind, political philosophy is more important than political geography; especially during times of crises.

I also pay little attention to the political party of the individual and instead look for people who support a platform of healthy economy, low taxes and are focused upon job creation.


And while each party has a brand they promote i.e. pro-labor or pro-business the reality is that it really boils down to the elected official who is casting the votes which define economic policy. For instance there are some very pro-job creation (aka pro-business) Democrats in the General Assembly. There just aren’t enough to make a difference. The reason for this is because those of us in the business community have not done our jobs to insure that the pro-business, pro-job creation candidates have enough help during the election process. This has to change if we are to change our economic conditions.

As business people we can no longer ignore our responsibility to do our part to insure we have the type of economic conditions we need to build healthy companies who employ many Rhode Islanders.

We must recognize, and act upon, the fact that:

Policies drive economies.

Politics drive policies.

Politicians determine the politics.

Elections determine the politicians.

And while many of us are too busy to run for office ourselves we must become more than spectators in the election process. The reason the public sector unions are so powerful is because they impact elections. The elected officials know this and fear them as a result. We must gain the same measure of respect by working together to inform one another of good candidates and support them heavily both financially and as volunteers on their campaigns.

I strongly urge you to consider paying some of your civic rent this upcoming election year by getting involved in the electoral process.

Engage in any way you want. Support anyone you think reflects your principles and priorities. Just get in the game. And when you do I might suggest that you forget political parties and forget who is a “good guy, or girl” and work for, vote for and help fund people who understand the basic laws of “financial physics” and who care enough about the people of Rhode Island to insure the goose is always healthy enough to feed us all.

And if you chose not to get involved I’ll wave if I see you standing in the government’s unemployment line on my way out to find friendlier pastures.

In closing I offer three famous quotes from Albert Einstein that speak to the need to change the make up of our current General Assembly to one that has more people who understand business and are committed to supporting us:

1. The significant problems we have created today cannot be solved using the same level of thinking with which we created them.

2. Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.

This guy was smart.



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