I find it distressing that President Obama and other proponents of big government continue to preach its virtues as the country faces ongoing political stagnation. I host a radio show and podcast about technology and startups so I've interviewed hundreds of young entrepreneurs and experienced businesspeople who have made significant contributions to positive economic change and growth in our country.
I recently attended The Nantucket Project, (pretentiously self-described as an "annual gathering of some of the world's leading thinkers, visionaries, and performers..."), which offered a wildly dissimilar group of speakers and panelists ranging from Chris Matthews to Senator John McCain to Eve Ensler (writer of the Vagina Monologues), yet no blood was spilled and not even a harsh word was spoken. In addition, the impressive roster of business leaders attending the conference was extremely intriguing, and all told, I gained a great deal of insight into our dysfunctional government during my weekend (September 27 to 29) in Nantucket.
Many of the discussions at The Nantucket Project focused on change and growth and below are some excerpts:
- Senator John McCain surprised the audience by suggesting that Republican politicians accept Obamacare because it was voted into law, just as a majority of Americans twice elected Barack Obama as president. He added that "politicians are only pragmatic when it comes to getting reelected," and offered redistricting electoral boundaries as a solution to political inertia.
- Steve Case (founder of AOL) spoke of his failures as much as he did about his successes. He reminded everyone that Detroit was the silicon valley of the 1950s -- a thriving city on the cutting edge of design and technology.
- Author Michael Pollan discussed how "the government subsidizes the causes of type 2 diabetes and then spends a fortune treating the results." Corn and soy subsidies account for a whopping 40 percent (more than 100 billion) of all agricultural produce subsidies.
- Another speaker suggested that the country's biggest economic problem is shortfalls in public and municipal pensions, which politicians are ignoring.
- Economic inequality will not be overcome by taxation.
- Environmentalists are important but they must embrace a wider portfolio of technologies.
- Larry Summers said that "a fatalistic and weary center must be awakened to battle an angry, determined left and right."
The Nantucket project offered an open exchange of ideas in a bipartisan atmosphere that was -- to say the least -- extremely refreshing. The amount of change and innovation coming from businesses today is remarkable, and the fact that at the same time our government can't properly launch a healthcare website is unacceptable. Sports franchises must adhere to salary caps as well as other restrictions to stay competitive and any business will go bankrupt if not managed properly. Cutting and/or maintaining budgets is standard practice for profitable companies, yet this sort of fiscal responsibility is considered impossible by our federal government. Politicians are responsible for dividing the country, but they blame it instead on race and financial inequality. Most importantly, how is our country going to flourish with a president who believes that government is the most effective job creator?
There's an old expression: If we do what we've always done, we will get what we've always gotten. Politicians seem to subscribe to this motto and -- sadly -- celebrate it as well. I left the weekend feeling positive about innovation and entrepreneurship but depressed about those in Washington who stand in the way of progress and change.