Yesterday, Barack Obama, who as we all know is on a mission to destroy capitalism, sat down with a group of capitalists from the Business Roundtable to hear their sage advice and answer their insightful questions about the economy and the state of the nation. During the session, Fred Smith, the CEO of Federal Express, mentioned a couple of bills floating around Congress to increase the gas tax, and asked the president, "Why not, before the Congress goes home for December, just pass a bill that takes the two bipartisan bills that I just mentioned, up, and solves the problem?"
Yes, why not "just pass a bill"? Strange how nobody in Washington seems to have thought of that. It took a can-do business leader to cut through all the baloney and find the solution to the problem of crumbling infrastructure.
I'm sure Smith is a smart guy in his way — I can't imagine an idiot could run a huge company like FedEx. But it's obvious that he knows nothing about politics. Yet I'm sure that like most CEOs, he thinks he understands it plenty well, and if he were running things in Washington they'd be in tip-top shape in no time.
But of course, you can't "just pass a bill," not with this Congress. You couldn't pass a bill to put a plaque honoring Johnny Appleseed in the basement bathroom of the Department of Agriculture without months of negotiations, and you sure as hell can't "just pass a bill" to raise the gas tax, particularly when a majority of members of the House of Representatives (219, according to Americans for Tax Reform) have literally signed a pledge to never, ever, ever, ever raise taxes. Ever.
This is just another example of a discouragingly persistent myth, one that's particularly common in the business community but can be found in other groups as well, like Hollywood screenwriters. The myth says that in politics, only individuals matter. Institutions are all but irrelevant, incentives and constraints and ideology are but minor hurdles easily overcome, and any problem could be solved with a little good will, common sense and good ol' American sticktoitiveness.
That's how Fred Smith seems to think of the business that Barack Obama is in, but if Obama described the business Smith is in that way, he'd think Obama was a fool. If Obama said to Smith, "Hey, why don't you just switch your whole fleet to electric vehicles by the end of the year?", Smith would not only be able to offer a dozen reasons why that's a nice idea but completely impractical, but afterward he'd mutter, "Jeez, this guy knows nothing about business." And that, interestingly enough, would be taken as evidence that Obama is unqualified for his own job.