Who’s better to lead in this economy?
Last week, we examined the presidential race from the perspective that one candidate's view of business was more positive while the other perspective was more negative.
The reasons for that difference are many and relate to the core constituencies of both the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as the backgrounds of the two competing politicians.
President Barack Obama wants to be a populist, an everyman. His campaign is being designed to appeal to the 99%, the little guy. He needs to make big business, Wall Street and the affluent out to be the enemy to succeed in his strategy.
Oddly, he spent 2007 and 2008 collecting money from these interests. Makes for an odd conversion, but this president is nothing if not "evolutionary."
So, who would you rather lead an economy?
Would you prefer a proven progressive constitutional scholar, community activist and career politician, or a nuts-and-bolts private sector executive, who also has some government experience under his belt?
As with anyone who has accumulated wealth through private enterprise, the business guy has some skeletons in his closet. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney built and ran Bain Capital, a venture capital/private equity firm.
A political opponent can easily sort through the many successful equity investments to find companies that just couldn't be taken from failure to profitability.
In the Obama campaign's hands, the message is that Mr. Romney's corporate vision equates to Dracula, a vampire that sneaks in the dark of night, sucking profit from the dying company, leaving the employees as so much detritus to wither away and die themselves.
There were companies of many types that Bain bought into, only to find the books so badly cooked or markets so completely over-saturated that the best course of action was to sell the corporate components to produce a return for the equity investors.
That leaves some real victims, people whose sad personal experiences can be easily exploited in a 30-second commercial advertisement.
Of course, the Romney campaign can respond tit-for-tat. While there were companies that couldn't be turned around, the majority of Bain's equity investments resulted in successful companies, bigger profit, and added workforce.
What does President Obama offer as collateral experience of his own? How many private sector jobs exist because of investment or business development decisions that he made in the private sector of our national economy?
Are those crickets I hear?
Sure, the president points to his automobile industry bailout as having saved jobs in Detroit. In truth, the automobile bailout was put together during the waning days of the Bush Administration, but President Obama was the one who got it done.
The president also claims credit for teachers, cops and firefighters who are still working because he convinced Congress to pass federal bailouts to the states that were then used as subsidies to offset local revenue losses.
Not private sector jobs, but government payroll padding. Not that we don't need teachers, police and firefighters; we do. It's just that it isn't a feat of managerial skill to use tax dollars to build the size of government.
The true test comes when you risk your own money, or money that other investors entrust to you, to buy a failing company and turn it around. The vision and insight to produce profit where there was once only red ink demands a set of skills that are sadly lacking in our institutions of government today.
Skill in business is not the only measure of the future success of a political candidate. There are surely other equally important characteristics like integrity, honesty, and intellect.
In our current world state, the skill and ability to manage our economy may be the most important attributes of our future leader. Never before has the concept of CEO-President been more evident. If we can manage debt, markets and spending, then how we are perceived in the world will be enhanced.
With Greece, Italy and Spain teetering on the brink of insolvency, we don't need a Nobel Peace prize winner in the White House. A Harvard Masters of Business Administration with a detailed knowledge of Wall Street and the ability to turn a private sector loser into a winner will go a lot farther.