President Obama decided to stake his re-election on whether the American people will view Mitt Romney's business success as something negative. In doing so, the president betrayed his true belief that government, not private enterprise, knows best. The administration has been doing everything it can to boost its regulatory reach over every aspect of the economy. On Thursday, a group of entrepreneurs representing everything from one-man startups to multibillion-dollar international corporations came to Washington to make their case for relief.
Freshman Rep. Tim Scott set the stage by hosting a daylong "Revitalizing America" conference at the Capitol in the hopes lawmakers might learn a few things from successful entrepreneurs. Panel discussions featured the chief executives of Domino's Pizza and Honeywell, publishing heavyweight Steve Forbes and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.
Mr. Forbes, a two-time Republican presidential candidate, provided a basic business lesson for Mr. Obama. Government doesn't create economic growth; it can only provide an environment that encourages private enterprise to create wealth by taking risk. He warned about excessive regulations that "turn you - entrepreneurs - into government bureaucrats, vassals of the government, who don't like risk."
The longtime tax-reform advocate wants to eliminate most tax loopholes and deductions and create one 17 percent flat rate. He said the answer to the debt problem isn't higher taxes, but lowering the burden on entrepreneurs, who then would bail out government deficits by creating more wealth. This is the truth President Reagan recognized in the 1980s when he revitalized an economy shattered by Jimmy Carter's liberal policies.
America has veered far from the course set by Reagan. As Catherine E. Heigel, president of Duke Energy of South Carolina, told The Washington Times, the Environmental Protection Agency has "gotten much more aggressive during this administration, which has affected the whole industry."
She explained that her company works off a 20-year business model to determine what new power plants to build, whether coal, gas or nuclear. Investment is based on the current regulatory environment, which is very volatile. "We need certainty from Washington," she explained. "Once the decisions on these assets are made, you're stuck with them for the long haul - for 20, 60, 80 years."
It's not just the energy sector that's feeling the impact. "We have a billion [dollars] worth of capital in our business that we're looking to invest by buying and redeveloping shopping centers over the next few years," said Terry Brown, CEO of Edens, a retail real estate and development company. "But the current regulatory environment is an impediment to making decisions."
Mr. Brown complained about constant changes to the tax code, such as the payroll tax rate, which hinder investor confidence. "We expect retailers to sign five-year or 10-year or longer-term leases," Mr. Brown said.
More business leaders need to deliver such insight to the halls of Congress. It's refreshing to see corporate America coming to the Capitol not for a handout, but to tell Uncle Sam to let it do what it does best: Create wealth, jobs and prosperity.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.