US business leaders must give Washington a wake-up call
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It’s not every day that a Wall Street CEO sounds the alarm on the state of American government. During an earnings call earlier this month, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon put it bluntly: “We’ve been growing at 1.5 to 2 percent in spite of stupidity and political gridlock.” He added that our economy would have achieved “much stronger growth had (government) made intelligent decisions.”

Dimon is right. There’s a clear connection between our political dysfunction and our economic woes. For decades, we’ve endured partisan gridlock, outmoded bureaucracy, unreliable elections, and an increasingly unpredictable political environment. It’s no surprise that last fall, a Harvard Business School report found that our dysfunctional political environment is the number one drag on U.S. economic competitiveness. As long as our lawmakers are only capable of kicking the can down the road, we’re bound to miss key opportunities and suffer outdated, counterproductive policies.

Much of this trouble results from misaligned incentives. President Trump famously bragged that “as a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.”

It’s true. Too many legislators are stuck doing the bidding of lobbyists who buy access through political contributions. And what’s worse is that even when we get past the influence of powerful interests, many elected officials feel that it’s not politically safe to make the sort of commonsense compromises our country so desperately needs. No wonder so many Americans have lost trust in our government institutions.

It’s good that Dimon is speaking out. More business leaders need to do the same. Perhaps the business community will be able to do what public opinion alone seemingly cannot: Compel the government to fix itself.

We need a band of outspoken, tenacious business leaders to demand efficient, effective, and accountable government, rational public policymaking, and political institutions of which we can be proud.

While some see business leaders as defenders of the status quo, we know that business leaders understand and embrace positive disruption.” This is precisely what’s needed now to make our government work. By driving “positive disruption” through better policies and technologies, we can address the structural forces behind our political chaos and economic paralysis. And in doing so, we can help ensure greater economic opportunity for everyone.

What’s particularly galling about these problems is that proven solutions already exist. What we lack is the political will.

We already know that if we want our elected representatives to do their jobs, we need to incentivize better performance by changing how we run our elections and draw our districts. We already know that government and election technologies urgently need to be updated and secured. We’ve heard for years that lawmakers detest spending so much time raising money for their political campaigns; they’d rather be working for their constituents. If that’s the case, then they should enthusiastically and immediately support a ban on fundraising whenever Congress is in session.

If government could just do its job and do it well, our country would be better off.

Apple CEO Tim Cook put it simply last month at a White House meeting when he stated, “The U.S. should have the most modern government in the world, and today it doesn’t.”

He went on to suggest that government should take a page from Apple’s book and focus on customer satisfaction, adding that “the government should be focused on its citizens, and the services of the government should be measured on how pleased the citizens are with receiving those services.”

Our country has a rich tradition of business engagement on behalf of civil society. After World War II, it was primarily the American business community that promoted the Marshall Plan to rebuild much of Western Europe. That generous program spurred economic growth in Europe, but also created postwar jobs, markets, and economic growth in the U.S.

Business leaders have supported many other critical national reform initiatives in education, health care, civil rights, diversity, equal pay, and many other areas. The best business leaders recognize that the success of their companies depends on the success of our whole society — and that's why they invest their time in their communities, whether local, state, national, or even global.

Once again, American business leaders have an opportunity to help put our country on the right track. The future of our nation and our economy depends on a government that can deliver results. Dimon said he’s going to “be a broken record until this gets done.” Every American business leader must do the same and give Washington a wake-up call.

Dylan Ratigan is a New York Times best-selling author, co-founder of Helical Holdings, and was formerly the host of MSNBC’s "The Dylan Ratigan Show." He is a senior advisor for DisruptDC.

Charles Kolb served as deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy from 1990–1992 in the George H. W. Bush White House. From 1997–2012, he was president of the Committee for Economic Development. He currently serves as president & CEO of DisruptDC, a nonpartisan business coalition devoted to structural governmental reform.


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