I can still remember the day and the feeling. I was sitting in the board room of a local bank about three months after my brother died and I moved to town to take over the Business Times. In a meeting with my family, our business banker and the bank president, the president spoke these words to my parents, “From a quick and dirty look at your finances, you can afford to pay off the business debt on your own and you should shut it down.”
Aside from the fact I’m pretty sure the bank president hadn’t spent more than an hour or two on our business before that day or the fact our banker admitted a few times he’d known for months our business was failing yet had allowed the business to run to its detriment, one thing was now very clear: The Business Times wasn’t going to receive another penny or favor from its bank and its note was being called effective immediately.
As I type this, there are another bunch of business amateurs sitting around fancy board and meeting rooms discussing, sadly, not how to shut their business down, but how to keep it afloat. Of course, the amateurs I’m talking about are our leaders in Washington, D.C. The worst part is simple. There’s no banker making a decision it’s time to cut off the spigot. With the Fed and the printing presses ready to go, every look at the government’s budget is never serious, is lightning fast and so filthy one needs a shower after every Joe Biden-sponsored bipartisan fiscal meeting.
Also as I type this, the House is about to have a vote on increasing the debt ceiling. I’m pretty sure the outcome will at least sound like my old banker did for a brief moment in time, as this piece of legislation should be voted down. What happens next, however, will be something simply not available to small business owners as their bank tells them the gig is up.
Let’s face it, no matter how much my family protested about how the Grand Valley would lose the services of its only business publication, you knew the bank wouldn’t be moved to help. No matter how many business plans I came up with showing increasing revenues, the bank would not accept them as fact. And since my newspaper doesn’t necessarily target lower income readers, I had no argument about how the poor and less fortunate would be adversely affected. Quite frankly, the bank had made up its mind and the chips were going to fall where they may.
But that’s not how things work in D.C., where quick and dirty looks at the budget in fancy rooms always come up with the same result: spend more and tax more. And this kind of blind precursory review is not limited to party lines. Just look at all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth our country went through on the budget a few months back. There are the Democrats — you know, the ones who refused to even attempt a budget for the past two years and have presented pro forma projections that magically show dramatic increases in revenues to somehow unbelievably decrease the deficit over the next 10 years while spending us into oblivion. And then there are the Republicans — you know, the ones who are complicit in deficit spending, attempted to shut down the government under the guise of serious spending cuts that saved the taxpayers about $30 billion in the end and who will indeed cave when push comes to shove because you can’t stand straight and firm on principles you really don’t have, all with no discernable backbone. These are the qualities of the folks in serious discussions with Obama and Biden, not exactly the Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek of our times.
And that can mean only one thing for the forced client base of the federal government of the United States of America. You’re pretty much screwed. And unlike what my family did in saving this paper by risking its own money and making dramatic cuts and hard business decisions needed to keep on providing a service that has a value to our community, the federal government has shown no appetite or inclination in doing any of the latter I just mentioned. Although the government will be sure to ask you to pony up more of your own money to help keep this gigantic enterprise afloat.
The fact is, my family made conscious decisions at its own risk to keep a viable product in a marketplace, all in hopes of making a better life and serving its client base. In a Felliniesque way, our government is kind of the same. It’s making conscious decisions using your money at a great risk to satisfy a “client base” it has unconstitutionally created. I guess it just depends on which 50 percent of the client base you fall on, the givers or the takers, as to whether you like the government’s business plan.
Falling on the giver’s side, and knowing a modicum of economics from the school of hard knocks, my quick and dirty look says it’s time to shut them down — and their bank, too.