George Gets It … Kind Of

George McGovern that is.  

McGovern; Economic Renaissance Man

McGovern; Economic Renaissance Man

…. at age 66, after purchasing The Stratford Inn in Connecticut, George McGovern joined the real world of profit and loss business where his own money was at risk. In short order he found out that government regulation and intrusion were a small business owner’s worst enemy.

George McGovern that is. You remember him; the former senator from South Dakota and 1972 Democratic presidential candidate. What he got was a new perspective into life in the free market; away from the parochial halls of congress. Mr. McGovern wrote a Wall Street Journal opinion piece (The ‘Free Choice’ Act Is Anything But, Wall Street Journal, 7 May 2009) in which he talks about his own life experience after politics and how it changed the way he looked at government intrusion. The subject at hand was this weeks’ congressional foray into corporate America; the Employee Free Choice Act.

My perspective on the so-called Employee Free Choice Act is informed by life experience. After leaving the Senate in 1981, I spent some time running a hotel. It was an eye opening introduction to something most business operators are all too familiar with – the difficulty of controlling costs and setting prices in a weak economy. Despite my trust in government, I would have been alarmed by an outsider taking control of basic management decisions that determine the success or failure in a business where I had invested my life savings.” (The ‘Free Choice’ Act Is Anything But, Wall Street Journal, 7 May 2009)

Yea verily, brother George …

The salient point is that at age 66, after purchasing The Stratford Inn in Connecticut, George McGovern joined the real world of profit and loss business where his own money was at risk. In short order he found out that government regulation and intrusion were a small business owner’s worst enemy. The hotel went out of business two and a half years later after normal business setbacks and two lawsuits brought by clients injured on his property. Liberal icon, George McGovern quickly became an advocate of tort reform and as of late, is vocal about the consequences of free market intrusion by the same government apparatus (proponents of the Employee Free Choice Act) for which he once carried the mantle. In 1992, he wrote a postscript to his adventure into business; A Politician’s Dream – A Businessman’s Nightmare

 “I also wish that during the years I was in public office I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender”. (A Politician’s Dream, A Businessman’s Nightmare, Nation’s Restaurant News, Sept. 1992)

One can only imagine that maybe American capitalism and our economy wouldn’t be in the ditch we find ourselves in if other liberal politicians like Henry Waxman, Charles Schumer, Christopher Dodd, Barney Frank, and Barack Obama had lived through the experience of George McGovern.

But alas, in his recent WSJ piece Mr. McGovern seems to not remember the pain of 1992 as he slips back into true character as he adds;

My party has well deserved majorities in both houses of Congress, and I am thankful to have an exceptional president in Barack Obama. But while the Democratic majority in Washington confers power to reward our loyal supporters, today’s problems require solutions that transcend party politics...”

Hello? What am I missing here? Actually nothing; its political double speak where one takes an unpopular position but heaps praise and encouragement on those where the disagreement rests in order to remain in good favor. A common affliction among politicians is a spine that only Gumby could be proud of.

The perplexing thing however is the obvious disconnect between McGovern’s post-political experience and his Wall Street Journal words where he pledges his undying support for the Democrat political machine that comes down with a heavy hand on the business community at every turn. How can he remain so loyal to a president and a party that now controls basic management decisions for several companies; how it travels, spends money, advertises, confers compensation, and retains talent?

Would George McGovern have liked it back in 1983 if he had been told by a government official that he could only devote half of his proposed expenditure on marketing and advertising to attract guests to the Stratford Inn? Yet isn’t that exactly the business decision that was made for Chrysler by the economists, lawyers, and community organizers in D.C. Sure the government has skin in the Chrysler’s game but that’s a topic for a whole different discussion. My blood pressure can only handle one of these subjects per day.

One can only surmise that CEO’s in any given industry from energy to banking to healthcare feel the same way as George McGovern in terms of …“an outsider taking control of basic management decisions that determine the success or failure…” What is more incredulous is that shareholders haven’t mounted a revolt against the government suits sitting in the boardroom, thanks in large part to the influence the Obama Administration and the media has had in portraying business as bad and government as good.

Like them or hate them, one has to wonder what the state of things would be now in terms of business entities and the free market if businessmen/politicians like Mitt Romney, Steve Forbes, or any leader that has a good handle on free market economics, how businesses operate, and the limits of government were calling the shots.

Maybe a better exercise would be to imagine what things would be like if George McGovern (unlikely at age 92) ran the show from DC. I think he gets it … kind of.

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