T.Wall’s Tales from the Trail, Part 1

I’ve been asked many times, “What’s it like to be a business person running for public office?” Well, you’ve asked the right person.

At first, the process is much like starting up a new business from scratch. There are people to hire, government forms to file, Web addresses to secure, and office space to rent. But before I get into describing the real process, let me share with you a little of the funnier (or odd) side of campaigning.

After a few months, I noticed that candidates the voters viewed as viable would start to get all kinds of free “advice,” as in people would tell you the “darndest” things about yourself. I received advice on my car. I should buy a domestic nameplate SUV to replace my Toyota (even though my Sequoia was made in the U.S.) I was advised to buy new jeans — Lee or Levi’s being acceptable brands. I was told that I was too pale, that I should get a tan, especially for TV. I also was too skinny. I should put on some weight — “tell your wife to fatten you up!” I was told to downgrade my suits (apparently mine were too nice). Later, I was told to upgrade my suits.

I was told that I should only wear dark blue suits with white shirts (except not white shirts on TV), with red ties. Yes, as I found out when I wore a blue tie once, this is a sign of not supporting your party’s colors.

I was also told by a few “experts” that I needed to change my name; apparently, people can’t handle calling me by my real name! Attention voters: the millennial generation has a disproportionate number of unique and out-of-the-ordinary names, so we better get used to it.

3 Steps to Rebooting Economy
The one thing that most amazed me on the campaign trail, however, is that while I heard a lot of complaints about government spending and the economy, few people offered any real solutions. There is definitely a pre-disposition by the political class towards winning, rather than actual problem-solving.

So let’s digress for a moment. The answer to rebooting the economy isn’t that complicated; actually, it’s as simple as one, two, three. One, fix taxes. Lower tax rates to a flat tax between 15% and 25%. (Rates during the Reagan years varied between 15% and 28%.) Two, fix regulation — reduce federal regulation and start by repealing ObamaCare and the 2,000-page financial markets bill that will further squeeze lending by placing more power in the hands of the federal government, which is what got us into this mess in the first place. Three, fix credit by ordering the federal bank regulators to go home! Tell them to stop telling the banks to tighten lending criteria.

Will these steps solve all the problems that created the financial crisis? No, that’s not the objective. The only objective at this point is to reboot the economy, because doing that is the top priority, and many other problems will be fixed if we fix the economy. Then, and only then, should our government representatives focus on putting in place appropriate regulation to police the financial industry and derivatives markets.

Right now, the federal and state governments are scaring the heck out of business managers, and everyone I talk to is afraid to spend, to invest, to borrow, to hire. Implementing the three steps above will immediately restore confidence in the future and businesses will begin to hire, invest, and spend. Unfortunately, the present representatives in Washington aren’t interested in America’s future; they’re only interested in their own future.

And if you want to give an even bigger jolt to reducing unemployment, I propose that Wisconsin’s Act 255 (which was originally created by Governor McCallum) be passed federally. The present Act provides for a 25% state income tax credit to investors who take a chance on investing in early-stage, start-up tech companies. I recommend a 100% federal income tax credit for every dollar invested in 2010 and 2011 (up to some limit), reducing to 75% in 2012, to 50% in 2013, and to 25% in 2014, and making it permanent at 25% after that.

I have a list of well over 100 entrepreneurs and their start-up companies that are in desperate need of capital right here in Wisconsin. If only 5% of them became as successful as TomoTherapy or Epic Systems, the result would be 10,000 new jobs. Yes, investors may lose their investment on the other 95%, but that’s why they would receive the tax credit for taking that risk. Besides, a 5% success rate would more than make up for the losses on the other 95%.

This ain’t rocket science — the tax credit program in Wisconsin works. We just need more of it, and we need it on the federal level. But one thing I learned on the campaign trail is that with the exception of a couple of politicians, there is a complete lack of understanding of the fundamentals of economics and a lack of political will.

Why? Because the professional political class is so wrapped up in their own survival from election to election that they miss the big picture — the country! The people! They don’t take the time to learn, either. A lot of voters think that the only way to change the system is throw them all out and start over, but based upon my campaign experience, I can assure you that this won’t solve the problem.

The only way to solve the problem is with permanent structural change; term limits, a balanced budget amendment, and other solutions I am proposing. We must stop politicians from occupying their offices for life. If they knew that they would become subject to the same laws that they pass after they’re forced to leave office, they would take a different approach to governing than they do now.

Patriot’s Bill of Rights
In next month’s issue of In Business magazine, I will introduce my Patriots’ Bill of Rights: 10 specific amendments to the United States Constitution that fundamentally alter how politics is conducted in Washington. Isn’t it time that we, the people, govern our representatives a little more, and have them govern us a little less?

This column is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Marc Trager, candidate in the 8th Congressional seat, who took his own life following his withdraw from the race.

Marc, it was an honor getting to know you.

For more of Terrence Wall’s "Tales from the Trail," check back next week at "Up Against the Wall," exclusively on IBMadison.com.