Winning Words on the Progressive Business Message:
Being conservative or progressive has nothing to do with appreciating the role of business in society. The progressive view of business is about responsibility and patriotism, and has a distinctive pro-American flavor. In this edition of the Winning Words Project, we channel President Obama's rhetorical style to present the full-throated progressive message on business.
Readers may recognize the first few paragraphs. President Obama's signature vision of a truly United States of America, where all people and groups hold their duty to country and each other above self-interest — e pluribus unim — applies equally well to American businesses.
The audience for this message includes moderates and persuadable voters who wonder why Democrats care so much about how much businesses contribute to our society in taxes and workers' wages, and business owners who are on the sidelines this election cycle because they are turned off by the populist rhetoric the president has undertaken to date. This speech makes it clear that it's Mitt Romney's Republicans who are quibbling over how big of a slice of our economic pie goes to the wealthiest people in America; the Democratic Party cares about how businesses can work FOR America to increase the size of our economic pie to benefit everyone.
Our Obama-inspired business pitch ...
Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation, not because of the height of our trees, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy; our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
That is the true genius of America, a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles; that anyone with a good idea and drive can start a business, even if they don't inherit a fortune from their wealthy parents.
We have more work to do, for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who lost their union jobs at the Maytag plant that moved to Mexico, and now they have to compete with their own children for jobs that pay 7 bucks an hour.
Now, don't get me wrong, the people I meet in small towns and big cities and diners and office parks, they don't expect government to solve all of their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead. And they do.
Alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga, a belief that we are all connected as one people.
It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family: "E pluribus unum," out of many, one.
I say to you tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; a public sector America and a private sector America; there's the United States of America.
When we look at a map and see the familiar outline of our country, we recognize ourselves as one nation and feel proud. In a few months we'll see newspapers slicing and dicing that map of our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them. We want businesses to succeed in blue states, and we protect workers in the red states.
There's not a workers' America and a business America. We are the United States of America, where workers and business owners alike can reap the rewards of their investments in the prosperity of our great nation.
We celebrate together the achievements of great American heroes: gold medal winners and brave explorers; those who fight fires and those who fight to protect our freedoms.
So let us also celebrate together those who make our country great every day. Innovators who bring us new technology, entrepreneurs who build businesses from the ground up, and workers whose resolve and energy keep our economy moving 24/7, 365 days a year.
America is at its greatest when all of us are at our strongest. United we stand, divided we fall.
So where do we stand now? Four years ago, our economy stumbled. The other party wants you to think we're down on the ground, floundering around. I've got news for them: Economies may stumble, but Americans always stand proud. We need jobs, we need to work together to grow our economy again, but Americans never give up.
As America's businesses get back to business, I will welcome good news gladly, and give credit where credit is due. The President doesn't create jobs. My duty to American commerce is to pave the way for American businesses to hire American workers. We have a virtuous cycle that needs a jump start. It's middle class consumer demand that creates the need for more jobs, and better pay that creates that demand. Low pay derails and cripples the spending power of the middle class, leading to layoffs due to the lessening demand.
We can prime the pump, we can add fuel, but the engine that drives our economy forward is a strong middle class that spends money at American businesses.
Republican President Teddy Roosevelt reminded us, "No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the bare cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so after his day’s work is done he will have time and energy to bear his share in the management of the community, to help in carrying the general load."
What responsibility do businesses have to America? Businesses need profit to survive, to live. But Jesus said "For what doth it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life?" Corporations are not people, but the question is still meaningful. What does it profit a business to gain all the world's wealth, if the people, planet, and workers it depends on are starving?
The wisest business leaders understand that. Charles Erwin Wilson, the president of General Motors from 1941 to 1953, said "For years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors and vice versa. The difference did not exist. Our company is too big. It goes with the welfare of the country." Henry Ford knew that the best way to create customers for his mass-produced Model T's was to pay his workers well enough that they could afford to buy the cars they were building.
A working society entails all of society's institutions working in partnership. Goods can't be shipped without good infrastructure for shipping. Contracts won't be signed unless the rights of all signers are protected. A healthy business climate requires healthy workers and a safe environment. Free markets only work freely when cheaters and freeloaders are kept in check. Who takes care of all this so that businesses can thrive? All of us do.
In America we know that freedom isn't free. We earn our freedoms with shared sacrifice, and we sustain our freedoms when sacrifice is rewarded. Businesses are built on more than the risk of capital. The blood, sweat and toil of responsible American workers deserves respect and fair reward too. The strongest societies are strongest in the middle. Empires fall when greed at the top pulls all the rewards and wealth up to the wealthiest. Right now the middle class is suffering the most, while the top tier is doing better than ever. It's in everyone's interests to figure out how to get our country back on balance. To paraphrase Aristotle: We need moderation in all things. With respect to profit, true social value is a mean between the excess of greed and the folly of waste.
Is this class warfare? War is when two sides fight over territory only one can have. The great American partnership we're building creates new ground and prosperity to share fairly with those who have earned it. Capital and labor; workers and owners.
Is this divisiveness? We're divided when we fail to see and appreciate the contributions of others. The prosperous America we're building respects and values all sectors, public and private.
There's a lot of curiosity lately around how to build a sustainable society, where commerce, the environment, and social equity are all advanced and protected in balance.
For businesses, sustainability just means staying in business. Our message is that we sustain each other. To love America is to want all Americans to succeed. This is the path laid out for us, for all of us to walk in one direction: forward.
When one political party cheers bad economic news, and seeks to score political points by holding us back and blocking progress, takes joy in seeing us fall short, that party is not ready to lead the greatest country in the world.
We believe that American businesses want what all Americans want: sustainable success. The businesses that join us on that path see the long view.
Going back to the failed policies that created this crisis is the short view. A very select few may profit immensely, but it will deprive honest businesses and responsible Americans of the opportunity for prosperity.
The other party thinks the only purpose of business is to extract maximum profits, and the role of government is to let the funneling up continue until there's nothing left.
We stand with businesses who believe in creating enduring social value; businesses that invest in stakeholders to grow sustainable returns for shareholders, and support the communities and institutions that support and sustain their business.
Many business owners already reward their employees richly and fairly. Those are the businesses that attract our best and our brightest, and their success breeds more success. To those leaders I say thank you. Let your example lead more businesses. Preach what you practice. Stand up for all workers across the board, not just your own. We are rebuilding the country we believe in, an America that works together, where everyone has the opportunity to realize the American Dream, not just those who start out at the top.
This is our vision. One People; business owners and workers, public sector and private, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, working in, and with, responsible American businesses to create a healthier and stronger United States of America.
Thank you, and God bless America.
President Obama: Next time you're in front of business people who've been watching too much Fox News, try this out on them. It answers their doubts, addresses what they care about in their hearts, and it may even open up their wallets...
Next, read about the problem of stagnant worker wages in America.