Matters Column

Politicians’ loyalty should be to country, not party

April 7, 2017
| By Paul Hense |
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We are staying in a condo on Hutchinson Island on Florida's Atlantic coast. Early in the morning, I watched a storm coming in over the water — on my right was a crescent moon surrounded by stars, and on the left were black billowing clouds and flashes of lightning. I thought it looked like Washington D.C. Hopefully, the storm will miss your location but, if it does hit you, hope the wind will not be so great as to do permanent damage.

What we are watching in D.C. is the Balkanization of our country. Due to the mix of ethnic and religious factions in the Balkans, the area acquired the nickname as the tinderbox of Europe. Washington politicians place their loyalty to their political party as superior to their identification as Americans, much like Bosnians identify themselves as Muslim or Christians as opposed to Bosnians.

So, what does that mean for small business? It means Washington will continue to squabble and fight over party lines while the real issues are left unresolved.

For a problem to be solved, a basic set of truths of the reality of the situation must be established to move forward. A CPA teaching a seminar in the early 1980s predicted the bankruptcy of the auto industry. He did the math. The movie “The Big Short” illustrated how a few analysts saw the 2007 housing crash coming. They did the math. The examples are unlimited. In order to resolve a problem, you must do the math. You must unemotionally see the problem without the prejudice of association to a belief or outside influence that colors your judgment.

Washington is trying to address the health care issue. First, get rid of the term Obamacare. This should not be a political party issue as much as it is an American issue. The fact the votes on health care are almost 100 percent along party lines indicates votes are for the benefit of the political parties not the American citizens. Bart Stupak was the Congressman from northern Michigan who made the deciding vote on the Affordable Care Act. Did he vote based on what was good for the country or cave in to pressure to support his party? Mr. Stupak is the only one who knows the answer, but my best bet is that he caved in to party pressure.

Simple reality. Buying health insurance that covers pre-existing conditions is ludicrous. Let's have auto insurance you buy after you total the vehicle or homeowners insurance you buy after your house burns down. All the policyholders that paid premiums for years will pay for the irresponsible acts of the uninsured. This is a symptom of a continued slide toward a society where there are no consequences for irresponsibility.

Here is an example of how I contribute to a health care problem. At 7 years old, I had a third-degree burn on my leg that required a skin graft and a month in the hospital. I remember the conversations about possible infection and loss of the limb or worse. At 7, I did not understand the meaning of “or worse.” What I was excited about was a peg leg; I was going to need an eye patch and a parrot. Thanks to antibiotics, I kept the leg and I am still here. At 16, I had a severe strep infection; I lost 40 pounds. Thank you again, antibiotics. At 60, I had two stints for blocked arteries; thank you modern medicine. Now, here I am at 74 with Parkinson's disease. I have no life-threatening illness, but from an economic standpoint, I am contributing nothing. For how long will I be a drag on the economy? Now, multiply me by the millions of people too old or too sick to be productive.

We hear very little about the national debt. If you had a neighbor or a friend who made $75,000 a year and bought a million-dollar house on credit, wouldn't you feel obligated to point out the insanity of what they were doing? Have you called your member of Congress and pointed out financial ruin is a certainty with such irresponsible actions?

We have an aging population. We need more young people, and we are not producing enough of our own. Immigration is a necessity. While the fools on the hill address immigration from a party line, they are ignoring the long-term national problem of replacing the unborn future workers we need. Prosecute the criminals, secure the border, resolve the illegals already here and, as quickly as possible, set up a system to bring ambitious, energetic, creative young immigrants to keep us strong.

Now that health care reform has failed, Congress is turning to tax reform. This is another critical area for building a future strong economy. To me, the most important issue is fairness, followed by simplification. Until Congress deals with the budget deficit, tax reduction is irresponsible. When you are 21 trillion dollars in debt, do you really want to reduce your income? That is the kind of thinking that comes out of not doing the math.

So, here is what I suggest we do to come up with a fair, simple and efficient tax system. Find the best 100 CPAs in the country and put them all in a room together. The group will include national-firm, large-firm and small-firm accountants, so that all strata of the economy are represented. Lock the door. Put armed guards at the door to shoot any lawyers (remember attorneys resolve conflicts lawyers inflame them) who try to infiltrate the group. That is necessary to prevent emotional and illogical arguments. Reduce the amount of food provided every day until they come up with a simplified and fair tax plan. You just have to find the right reward to encourage a solution. This circumvents the current system where payments by lobbyists are what frame the negotiations. A hamburger is a bigger motivation to a starving accountant than a week at a Palm Beach resort is to a fat cat politician.

In the words of one of America's great intellectual leaders, Larry the Cable Guy, "Get ’er done."

Paul Hense is the retired president of local accounting firm Hense & Associates and past chairman of the Small Business Association of Michigan.

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