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Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011 04:27 am

End greed, invest in healthy economy

As a business owner who has created hundreds of jobs over the past two decades, I understand economic policies that build sustainable growth. Yet the billions in tax cuts for the wealthy recently signed into law compromise our shared future.

The promise of “trickle down” economics has failed. When recent studies suggest that one in three working families are near poverty, it defies common sense that some elected officials have prioritized giveaways to the wealthy. This greed and excess is what got us into the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. It defies good business and core American values to pass this burden on to increasingly vulnerable working families, and to our children and grandchildren. How much more damage to the middle class can the country endure?

It’s clear that our political leaders need to shift course in order to build a healthy economy. We need to put aside the myths and rationalizations that excuse the unprecedented greed the last decade has witnessed. We need to have a basic sense of decency and focus on policies that benefit us all.

It’s pretty simple: when Main Street consumers are doing better, we all do better. Or, as the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce recently said, “We need customers, not tax breaks.”

I started my business in the difficult 1989 economy and sustained other recessions. I know that it’s the customers who drive economic prosperity. With millions of Americans out of work, giving tax cuts to the wealthiest few is the wrong strategy. At one time I paid more in taxes, because I was making more. This is appropriate, since a strong economy is built upon creating economic gains for all Americans, not just a privileged few.

It takes positive values to build healthy families and communities. When we built our manufacturing plant in North Carolina, we invested in environmentally sustainable practices, built an industry-leading day care center, a health-conscious café, employee gym and responsible health care for our more than 600 employees. These were expenses our competitors were not taking on, but we knew that by making up-front investments in our people we would all benefit over the long term.

As a country we have forgotten our own history. Public investments like the GI Bill, the interstate highway system and university research grants have provided the environment where some of the world’s most innovative entrepreneurs had the opportunity to build businesses. That’s what makes America great, not greed.

We must recommit ourselves to the foundation of healthy and prosperous communities where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. The anger that excludes or divides us is not what has made America strong. A healthy economy includes all people and helps build a foundation for public spaces, civil discourse, religious freedom and an environment that sustains creativity, innovation and peace.

We now face urgent economic and environmental challenges that will determine our global competitiveness and quality of life for generations. Patriotism comes from a willingness to share responsibility, to support our shared interests and to invest in creating opportunities for all through education, technology and infrastructure.

As we begin this year we must commit to a healthy economy, where Main Street Americans have jobs and money to spend. This will take investment, not tax cuts. We must put an end to the greed and excess that got us into this economic crisis. It will require sacrifice from each of us and require historic leadership with integrity. If our political leaders don’t understand that, then it’s time we find some who do.

Mitchell Gold is co-founder of Mitchell Gold Bob Williams, a $100 million home-furnishings brand he and business partner Bob Williams started in 1989 with an investment of $60,000. He is a member of Wealth For Common Good and founder of Faith In America. Copyright (C) 2010 by the American Forum. 
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