Congratulations to President Obama on his reelection. I like him, but I didn't vote for him. I still believe his opponent (now what was his name again?) would've been friendlier to the business community.
But that's not important. What's important is that our President has been reelected. But here's a warning, Mr. Obama: the next few years aren't gonna be easy. The House is still solidly Republican. The business community is wary. Your party only holds a small majority in the Senate. You won by a mere two percent of the popular vote. More than half of the states' governors oppose you. And, worst of all, your daughters are entering their teenage years. Yeesh. Short of suggesting a lot of patience and even more heavy drinking, I really don't have much advice to offer for you there. But I do have eight ideas for how you can win over the business community during your next term.
1. Like most business owners, before I hire a new employee I interview him or her. Some companies give prospective employees a test. So, Mr. President, let's make some improvements to the election process that will hopefully save a little time and maybe $6 billion in campaign spending (something that business people like). Let's change the definition of eligible voters. Right now anyone over the age of 18 is allowed to vote. This is not good. My son just turned 18 and trust me, he should not be eligible to vote (unless he's voting on his favorite episode of Workaholics). Wait until your daughters turn 18 and you'll see what I mean. I know you don't like No Child Left Behind. So instead how about No Dummies Allowed To Choose? Nothing crazy... just a new law that requires voters to answer a few simple questions before entering the voting booth, like how many senators there are, who is the current speaker of the House and which is bigger: our national debt or A-Rod's salary?
2. Smart business people are always open to criticism from their own managers. We learn from our mistakes. So, on that basis I suggest you appoint a bipartisan cabinet. And then introduce legislation for all future presidents to be required to do the same. The reason why this election was so close is that the country is split down the middle and everyone is sick of the partisan bickering. A good president should respect his opposition enough to include them on his management team. He should be confident enough to listen to opposing views. In the end, like any executive, the decision will be yours to make. But you'll be making it with input from all sides. You will grow to be a better manager. You'll earn the respect of both parties and this will improve the way you govern.
3. Every successful business owner has a smart finance guy behind him. So naturally one of the first things you should now do is appoint Charles Grodin as your Secretary of Treasury. I can't believe you haven't thought of this guy before. Don't you remember? It was back in 1993 and President Mitchell was facing a budget crisis of his own. So what to do? He called up Grodin, who sat him down and helped him figure it all out. And that led to a meeting where he balanced the entire federal budget in what... four minutes and five seconds? I realize today's numbers are a little larger, but he's that much older and smarter now so why not give him a chance?
4. Hold to your seats, get ready, brace yourself: you need to make it your number one priority to (gasp!) pass a budget! We haven't had one of those in... oh, quite a few years now and I think most business mangers, bankers, investors, first graders and even Snooki would agree that a budget is kind of important. How can anyone operate any organization without one? Particularly if that organization is the U.S. government and that organization has been generating massive deficits and debts over the past five years. And guess what? You have to accept the fact that you will not be able to have everything you want in your budget. As a business owner I'm used to that. But I would suggest this: a solid two-year plan formulated by you and senior members of both parties of Congress that gives our business community a stable plan for the immediate future. I'm not saying this would solve all problems. But it will help minimize surprises which in turn would hopefully incentivize the business community to feel more open to taking more risks and spending a little of that $1.1 trillion that's currently sitting on their balance sheets.
5. On Day 1 after your inauguration I suggest signing an executive order suspending all current forms of torture on Guantanamo Bay and instead require all prisoners under interrogation to come forward with the vital information we require to fight this war on terror or instead be forced to watch the last three Adam Sandler movies on continuous loop until they eventually break down. This move may be controversial and you should expect to receive harsh rebuke from humanitarians around the world. But this is war, my friend, and sometimes tough actions need to be taken.
6. On health care reform you should work with Congress to give us all a breather and extend the existing legislation for two years. Then you should appoint a bipartisan committee to reevaluate its costs, benefits and return on investment and make sure neither Simpson or Bowles is involved. Because what scares the business community the most about this massive legislation is that this kind of due diligence never seemed to happen in the first place. Maybe work with Congress to break things down into smaller, more manageable chunks? Another thought: Every election there's a problem in Florida so I recommend you continue to reassure those seniors in Florida that their Medicare is safe while at the same time enacting legislation to change the name of Florida to Flo Rida in order to attract a younger, smarter, more hip-hop crowd to that chaotic state.
7. Forget tax rebates and stimulus spending. This stuff is useless. To show your understanding of the problems faced by my small business brothers and sisters I suggest working to pass legislation that just cuts to the chase: the legalization of physical punishment, torture, and yes, even murder, for any deadbeat customer that doesn't pay his bill after 45 days. You've warned the fat cats. Now you can warn that customer of mine in North Philadelphia that if he doesn't cough up the $4,000 he owes me he'll have the President of the US of A to contend with!
8. Finally, I'd have a long sit down with the Canadians. That's right... the Canadians. Drink a few pints of Moosehead , dust off some old Rush albums and laugh at a few Norm MacDonald jokes. Yeah... you'll have some good times. And then get serious and discuss how the Canadians, back in the late '80s managed to turn their economy around from a similar situation that we're now facing: high debt and large deficits. The Canadian government forged a spending to tax increase ratio as a compromise and they succeeded. We're going to need the same kind of thinking here in the U.S. to get our deficits and national debt back in control. They've been there and done that and we're going to need to go there too. The smart business people I know don't recreate the wheel -- they figure out how similar problems have been solved before and improve.
You're reelected, Mr. President. And you don't ever have to worry about another election again. So here's your opportunity to be bold and really prove to the business community that you've got their back. Follow my eight steps. Or at the very least, could you quickly call that customer of mine in North Philly and find out when he's going to pay me already?
A version of this blog appeared on Inc.com.