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Entrepreneurs, Bailouts and the Last American Hero

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I've got a name, I've got a name
And I carry it with me like my daddy did
But I'm living the dream that he kept hid

- Jim Croce


The Last American Hero is a 1973 movie about race car legend Junior Johnson. It was based a profile of Johnson that Tom Wolfe wrote for Esquire magazine.

Johnson had dreams, determination, and the willingness to go against the powers that be.

In short, he had the makeup of a natural entrepreneur.

When Johnson started driving, NASCAR took place on dirt tracks in small towns. Now it is a multi billion dollar business. Johnson had a lot to do with that growth.

Johnson made a unique mark and helped to create a unique industry.

The way that entrepreneurs often do.

I've been a critic of the Wall Street bailouts since day one. "Too big to fail" corporations with greedy and out of touch management should have been allowed to die.

Instead they are propped up by taxpayers. They are using those tax dollars to crush potential competition from start up businesses.

There are many long term ramifications of the bailouts. Our children, grandchildren and great grand-children will pay a high price for the mistakes that Wall Street and Washington made.

One the greatest tragedies will be if potential entrepreneurs are discouraged instead of being encouraged.

The spark that drives a person to be an entrepreneur is more than about making money.

Businesses are started by people with vision, who passionately want to show that vision to the world.

It is about an individuality and not sucking up to people wanting you to conform.

It's all about breaking away from the norm. The theme song of the Johnson movie is Jim Croce's I've Got a Name and that sums up the spirit of entrepreneurship. People wanting to make a name for themselves.

I saw The Last American Hero on a movie channel but it ought to be shown on the Fox Business Network and CNBC. In a world where AIG and Citigroup have become the perception of American business, we need champions like Junior Johnson to inspire us.

At no point in the movie did I see Johnson apply for a government bailout. Even when his father needed a bailout, as in getting bailed out of jail, (they were in the moonshine business) the Johnson family didn't go looking for a handout. Junior got creative and started racing cars.

That decision that led to a multi-billion dollar industry and that employs thousands of people.

That wouldn't have happened if Johnson had been able to get a government bailout.

Trillions of dollars of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on bad management with bad business.

The biggest tragedy will be if the bailouts stifle creativity and innovation.

Instead of giving the money to Wall Street, I would have prefer we allow Main Street companies to have easy access to capital and show us their newest ideas. A lot of people are hurting right now. We need programs that encourage those hurting people to work hard, innovate and create businesses that make an impact that lasts for decades.

We need to be enabling the next American heroes.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the founder of McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement consulting firm, in Richmond, Kentucky. He is the author of Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You When The Lottery. You can write to Don at don@donmcnay.com or read his award winning, syndicated column at www.donmcnay.com. He is a frequent guest on television and radio talk shows.