Gov't gridlock leads to biz paralysis

Carl Yankowski

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

KAI RYSSDAL: The president's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said today the White House wants a financial reform law signed, sealed and delivered by this September. That'll be the two-year anniversary of Lehman Brothers going under. If the politics of the health care debate are any guide, meeting that deadline is going to be a pretty neat trick.

Commentator and businessman Carl Yankowski says the mood in Washington is just bad for business.


Carl Yankowski: Paralysis in Washington means paralysis in business. And that's because Washington is not getting credit flowing. It isn't preserving or creating jobs, and it isn't encouraging business.

I've watched small, cutting-edge businesses in electronics and aviation shrivel because of the economic downturn and government gridlock. They cut their work forces to the bone, but still flirt with bankruptcy. They slash salaries and benefits for whoever is left, hurting corporate morale. They cut costs and stop new programs to focus on survival, limiting their chances for growth.

I've seen companies settle for less expensive, mediocre talent because of tight budgets. I've seen business deals that made strong strategic and financial sense before the economic downturn, actually crumble due to lack of cash or confidence in the future. I've seen large companies buy less from small companies, or delay payment until the order is made and shipped, stretching the little guy's cash. Lots of small growth companies don't have that upfront cash anymore, and they can't get credit. Or, worse yet, the big company pays the small company only after it sells the finished product to its own customers, putting all the risk on the little guy. So the system starves itself.

Washington's token tax credit for each new worker is not going to help. No business in its right mind is going to hire when it can't attract capital and doesn't see demand for its products.

We need real new jobs. We need thoughtful government programs that put cash in consumers' pockets for new purchases, not unlike Cash for Clunkers or first-time buyer mortgage rebates. But Washington can only do this with a unified vision and no backroom politics -- with bigger tax breaks, with direct credit to small businesses and with sensible consumer incentives to build confidence and spend American.

Then, and only then, stability and jobs will come.

Ryssdal: Carl Yankowski used to be the CEO of Palm. Now he runs the management and consulting firm Westerham Group.

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