American business is like a Ferrari. It purrs at 140 mph, corners well at half that speed and is coveted by everyone. The US dollar, our capital markets, the US banking system, our rule of law, easy capital flows, startup successes, invention, innovation and orderly corporate governance all come together with a throaty purr just like a Ferrari. As President Calvin Coolidge said “The business of America is business”.
Hollywood Provides an Analogy
So, when I had the great luck last weekend to stumble into a classic old movie starring Al Pacino called “Scent of a Woman” about a blind Army veteran who has lost his will to live, I immediately wondered whether there is an analogy?
Recall that Lt. Frank Slade hires a prep school kid, Charlie Simms, (played by Chris O’Donnell) to be his assistant on a final trip to New York City. There is a memorable scene when Frank talks a Ferrari salesman in Manhattan into letting Frank’s assistant, Charlie, test drive the $107,000 (1992 prices) car. Charlie drives the Ferrari to a deserted part of Manhattan and then Frank takes over. He gets the car up to 70 mph and then says, “Charlie I want to feel how she corners”. Of course, he is suicidal anyway so Frank really does not care how well he executes a blind man turn in a Ferrari at 70 mph.
This is Hollywood so everything ends well with a friendly New York cop pulling Frank over for speeding. The cop never notices that Frank is blind, and the officer lets Frank off with a warning; not for driving blind but simply for excessive speed.
A Bureaucrat Test Driving Your Business
I could not pass up the opportunity to connect the dots between the Ferrari business world and the blind political class many of whom have no business experience. Someone from SEC, DOL, Justice, EEOC, EPA, and IRS is taking the keys from business owners every day. The old concept of checks and balances insured, at least in a Presidential election year, a healthy partnership between politician and business people who controlled the funding. However, in 2016 Trump bypassed the business community by financing his own primary and the Clinton Foundation supplied a “magic carpet” to the White House. Both candidates have done an end run on business. This portends an unchecked reign for the political class. Frank Slade is not giving up the wheel any time soon.
The aggressive overreach by Obama bureaucrats in all the three letter agencies is also changing accountability. “How does she corner at 70 MPH?” is not the first question you want to hear when a blind politician decides it can test drive American business.
Until I read Peggy Noonan’s article last week in The WSJ “A Dramatic Lesson about Political Actors” about Borgen, a miniseries cast in Denmark, I believed that business leaders in the United States could hold the politicians in check. Borgen portrays an ambitious woman president against a business scion who threatens to move his company out of Denmark if the president does not revoke a mandate that all corporate boards have 50 % females. The Denmark president calls the business leader’s bluff because the business leader is a patriot and can’t leave the country. Likewise, US corporate leaders cannot leave the system. Where else will they go? There are no other reliable alternatives. A number of big names have already sold out and those that resist are being targeted and punished. There is no greater proof than Goldman Sachs agreeing to become a commercial bank.
The next act will be a blind man with a comb over or a blind woman in pant suits test driving the Ferrari. It reminds me of Nancy Pelosi’s equally blind faith appeal about regulating 16% of GDP by enacting Obama Care: “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it.”
I also wonder who is going to ticket our political leaders for driving blind? It certainly won’t be the FBI, or Justice. They have already shown that they can’t tell the difference between an “extreme recklessness” and a blind driver. It won’t be Jamie Dimon or Lloyd Blankenship either because their bonus pools are regulated by the Comptroller of the Currency. Maybe some ingénue like Charlie- a young man of character and integrity who has been raised like old school Americans to make tough choices and stand for something- can grab the keys to the Ferrari before some blind politico drives it into a wall?
Nope. This isn’t Hollywood. There is no happy ending and the Ferrari’s keep getting smashed until there are no more Ferrari’s. Only then will someone from the FBI notice that the politicians have been driving blind without a license.
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Rob McCreary, Chairman
August 29, 2016