I realize you're about to go vote for this country's next President, but let me offer a better alternative.
It's been a long election season, and many people still haven't figured out who to vote for. Are you undecided? I realize it's only a day before you have to vote, but let me offer one more alternative. A better alternative. A small business owner who will fight for your rights and dedicate himself to serving this country as President. That's right, I'm talking about me. I realize you don't know much about me but I promise if I'm elected I'll run this country like a competent executive would. If I'm elected, here are nine immediate steps I, like any small business owner, would take to get the United States of America back on the right track.
1. I'll interview new employees before I hire them.
Some companies give prospective employees a test. So I ask the American people: why not the same for voters? I would change the definition of eligible voters. Right now anyone over the age of 18 is allowed to vote. This is not good. My son just turned 18 and, trust me, he should not be eligible to vote (unless it's for his favorite episode of Workaholics). As President, I would require a test. Nothing crazy. Just answers to a few simple questions before entering the voting booth like how many Senators there are, who is the current speaker of the House, and which is bigger: our national debt or A-Rod's salary. Just answer a few basic questions about our government and I've got no problem with you stepping into the voting booth, whether you support me or not.
2. I'll learn from my mistakes.
I'm always open to criticism from my own managers. So, I would appoint a bi-partisan cabinet. And I would introduce legislation for all future Presidents to be required to do the same. The reason why this election is so close is that the country is split down the middle and everyone is sick of the partisan bickering. A good President should respect his opposition enough to include them on his management team. He should be confident enough to listen to opposing views. In the end, like any executive, the decision will be his to make. But he'll be making it with input from all sides and, if he's a good manager, will earn the respect of both parties if he governs this way.
3. I'll have a smart finance guy behind me.
So of course one of the first things I would do is appoint Charles Grodin as my Treasury Secretary. I'm not sure why neither of the candidates haven't thought of this before. Don't you remember? It was back in 1993 and President Mitchell was facing a budget crisis of his own. So what to do? He called up Grodin, who sat him down, and helped him figure it all out. And that led to a meeting where he balanced the entire Federal budget, in what, four minutes and five seconds? I realize today's numbers are a little larger, but he's that much older and smarter now so why not give him a chance?
4. Hold your seats, get ready, brace yourself! I would make it my number one priority to--gasp!--pass a budget!
We haven't had one of those in, oh, quite a few years now. I think most business mangers, bankers, investors, first graders, and even Snooki would agree that a budget is kind of important. How can anyone operate any organization without one? Particularly if that organization is the U.S. government and it has been generating massive deficits and debts over the past five years? And guess what? I may not be able to have everything I want in my budget. Well, as a business owner, I'm used to that. But I would have this: A solid two-year plan formulated by myself and senior members of both parties of Congress that gives our business community a stable plan for the immediate future. I'm not saying we would solve all problems. But we would do our best to minimize surprises, which, in turn, would hopefully incentivize businesses to feel more open to taking more risks and spending a little of that $1.1 trillion that's currently sitting on balance sheets.
5. On Day No. 1, I would sign an executive order suspending all current forms of torture on Guantanamo Bay.
Instead, I'll require all prisoners under interrogation to come forward with the vital information we require to fight this war on terror or instead be forced to watch the last three Adam Sandler movies on continuous loop until they eventually break down. This move may be controversial and I fully expect to receive harsh rebuke from humanitarians around the world. But this is war, my friends, and sometimes tough actions need to be taken.
6. I would reconsider Obama's health care legislation.
I would work with Congress to first extend Obama's existing health care legislation for two years and then appoint a bi-partisan committee to reevaluate its costs, benefits, and return on investment. Because what scares the business community the most about this massive legislation is that due diligence never seemed to happen in the first place. I would publicly state the parts of the legislation that I support (and there are many) and the parts that concern me. I would work to turn the legislation into a bi-partisan act that gradually implements smaller and more targeted improvements over time. I would assure seniors in Florida that their Medicare is safe, while at the same time enact legislation to change the name of Florida to Flo Rida in order to attract a younger, hip-hoppier crowd to that geriatric state.
7. Wormer, he's a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer...dead!
(Sorry, couldn't resist.)
8. Forget tax rebates and stimulus spending.
This stuff is useless. To show my understanding of the problems faced by my small business brothers and sisters, I would quickly work to pass legislation that cuts to the real chase: the legalization of physical punishment, torture, and--yes, even murder--for any deadbeat customer who doesn't pay his bill after 45 days. So here's my last warning to that customer in North Philadelphia who still owes me $4,000 for our last project: you better pay up, my friend. This is one campaign promise I intend to keep.
9. Finally, I'd have a long sit down with the Canadians.
Yes, the Canadians. We'd drink Moosehead, dust off some old Rush albums, and laugh at a few Norm MacDonald jokes. Yeah, good times. And then we'd discuss how the Canadians, back in the late '80's, managed to turn their economy around from a similar situation to the one we're now facing: high debt and large deficits. The Canadian government forged a spending-to-tax-increase ratio, as a compromise and they succeeded. We're going to need the same kind of thinking here in the U.S. to get our deficits and national debt back in control. They've been there and done that, and we're going to need to do that too. The smart small business people I know don't recreate the wheel; they figure out how similar problems have been solved before and improve.
The American people now have a clear, better choice for President: A small business owner who knows what needs to be done to get this economy moving again. But if you're unable to elect me this time, can someone at least help me collect my money from that guy in North Philadelphia?
GENE MARKS is a columnist, author, and small-business owner. He oversees the Marks Group, a 10-person technology consultancy to small and medium-size businesses. A certified public accountant, Marks has also worked in the entrepreneurial services arm of KPMG. He writes for The New York Times, Forbes, and The Huffington Post.