In 1925 President Calvin Coolidge said “The business of America is business." This formulation is actually cannier than it may appear. It aptly describes the entrepreneurial spirit behind America's amazing prosperity. The more we move away from that simple but powerful statement, the less prosperous we will be at all levels of society. Mr. Michael Bloomberg built a multi billion dollar business on dispensing business information to people all over the world so he among the many contenders to national office should not have to be taught that lesson.
Politicians tend to run for office by talking about bigger, more elaborate social programs. Politicians have learned that mentioning the true costs of these schemes might slow the rush to pull the “yes” lever in the voting booths. It has been a while since anyone jostling for the presidential baton spoke as succinctly as President Calvin Coolidge regarding how America has achieved this prosperous place on the world stage. Sometimes I think the relationship between healthy business, manufacturing and export jobs, and all the social programs should be explained in a nursery rhyme that is read to children from kindergarten to the 5th grade. Even if they never went into business for themselves, that level of understanding would make them much better employees and citizens.
For example, there are probably at least two generations of Americans who don’t know that industrialist Henry J. Kaiser created the country’s first large scale HMO, the Kaiser Permanente health care system. Another more famous mogul, Henry Ford established the Ford Hospitals which have created a set of services for patients with terminal illnesses. These guys understood that you couldn’t have a healthy business or community without investing in the health of employees. They didn’t need a government representative to tell them that or to create the institutions.
In today’s techno flavored world, I’m confident that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs would say that you can’t have a healthy business and community without smartly educated employees. Instead of focusing on hospitals, these modern moguls heavily disburse their charitable dollars to prop up our creaky public education system. It was bureaucrats who broke that system and so they can’t be counted on to fix it.
So, Michael Bloomberg may have ambitions to take some of that private enterprise thinking to a higher office. If you didn’t know, he is the billionaire founder of Bloomberg L.P., who spent $74 million of his own money in 2001 to gain an office few thought he could win and $85 million more in 2005 to keep it. Michael Bloomberg is a singular figure in American politics and stands out as a national symbol for independent, nonpartisan leadership. Maybe there is a scrap of paper in that “bull pen” office set up of his that reminds him that business helped make America great, echoing the sentiments of President Calvin Coolidge.