Part of the Slow Dwelling life is to take a long term look at what we do and make decisions based on that approach. And part of that is taking a long-term view of America. Helping to try to improve our political system is part of that responsibility. Here is my story of a recent attempt:
I was first invited and then disinvited by the U.S. House of Representatives to testify before Congress. About a month ago, I was contacted by the Committee on Small Business from the U.S. House of Representatives. Two staffers contacted me to ask if I would testify in front of the committee for a hearing titled: A Job Creation Roadmap: How America’s Entrepreneurs Can Lead our Economic Recovery. I was asked if I would be interested in flying to Washington DC on March 21st, 2012 and telling the Story of OpenTable and my entrepreneurial experience.
So I thought, cool. Sharing my experiences to a committee in congress and be able to provide my feedback to our American leadership about the state of entrepreneurship today and how to make it better here in America, what a great honor.
I was asked to write out my story to submit as testimony to be added to the congressional record and have (shorter) opening remarks prepared on The Story of OpenTable and How Entrepreneur’s Can Lead our Economy Recovery. So I spent several hours preparing my written testimony, asked a few others to provide feedback and tried to capture my story as best I could. I also spoke with a number of other entrepreneurs and got their feedback to try to make sure I wasn’t too myopic in my testimony and suggestions.
I was asked to submit my draft testimony on Monday March, 5th. I did it and was called by the two staffers who wanted to provide feedback. They asked that I expand on a few topics and provided a few hints on doing so. But, they also asked that I “omit” several sections. That I remove parts of my testimony and resubmit. The original deadline for the final testimony was on Monday the 12th by 1:00, then they asked for it by end of day on Friday, then they wanted to get it by end of day on Thursday.
I included several observations based on my experience as to what could help spur innovation, new businesses and creating new industries, ultimate helping to keep America the worlds economic leader and creating new jobs. I think that the laws are written to favor big businesses and the privileged, neither of whom should need any special treatment so I stated so as changing that could really help. Some of the observations/ suggestions they wanted me to “omit” that I think helps entrepreneurship included:
- My recommendation to get money out of politics
- Get off carbon based energy and stop protecting big energy (oil, gas, coal)
- Improve our education system, environmental regulations, immigration, to name a few.
In addition, they asked me to remove comments like:
- We overly protect big corporations and the privileged, while gutting the middle class.
- That most entrepreneurs I know support the Buffet Rule
- We need Better Wealth Equalities
- We let lobbyists get their wishes and they shouldn’t
I spent a few more hours expanding on points that they suggested and removed some of the language that they requested, but keeping the core of my beliefs. I resubmitted what I hoped would be my final written testimony. By this time, I had purchased my air ticket and made the rest of my travel arrangements. None of which they reimburse and was set for the trip. But about an hour after I submitted my final version, the two staffers called me and told me “this isn’t the right forum for you.” I feel I was censored. I mentioned to them that I was disappointed that they were not willing to have someone on to testify unless they could control what they said. I was let down today by our government.
Here are the members of the Committee on Small Business:
Chairman Sam Graves [MO-06] (R)
Representative Roscoe Bartlett [MD-06] (R)
Representative Steve Chabot [OH-01] (R)
Representative Steve King [IA-05] (R)
Representative Mike Coffman [CO-06] (R)
Representative Mick Mulvaney [SC-05] (R)
Representative Scott Tipton [CO-03] (R)
Representative Jeff Landry [LA-03] (R)
Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler [WA-03] (R)
Representative Allen West [FL-22] (R)
Representative Renee Ellmers [NC-02] (R)
Representative Joe Walsh [IL-08] Conservative
Representative Lou Barletta [PA-11] (R)
Representative Richard Hanna [NY-24](R)
Representative Bobby Schilling [Il-17] (R)
Ranking Member Nydia Velázquez (D-NY)
Representative Kurt Schrader (D-OR)
Representative Mark Critz (D-PA)
Representative Yvette Clarke (D-NY)
Representative Judy Chu (D-CA)
Representative David Cicilline (D-RI)
Representative Cedric Richmond (D-LA)
Representative Janice Hahn (D-CA)
Representative Gary Peters (D-MI)
Representative Bill Owens (D-NY)
Representative William Keating (D-MA)
Can you send this to one of them and ask them why they don’t want to hear my story?
UPDATE: On the morning of March 19th, after getting pulled from the testimony, I reached out to Ranking Member Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) who’s office was awesome to speak with. They tried to get me on the calendar to speak, but were unable to given the limits of the number of people who can testify and schedules already made. However, they are submitting my testimony to the Small Business House Committee for them to read and into the congressional record, so maybe it will get heard. They were very professional and a great group to connect with.
Oh and here were things I felt were important suggestions to talk about (which is now getting added to the congressional record as well):
As a father, husband, entrepreneur, investor, advisor, but most importantly an American, I believe we need the following to realize the future we are capable of:
- Money out of Politics: If there is one thing that would improve the chances of success for entrepreneurs, it would be to get the influence of money out of politics and dramatically limit the role of PAC’s and lobbyists in Politics.
- Off Carbon Based Energy: to mitigate the catastrophic consequences to climate change. Plus this will open up huge innovation opportunities for future industries.
- Smart Environmental Regulations: I am not sure why it isn’t obvious that natural resources are foundation of our economy and we need smart regulations to manage them for the long-term.
- Upgraded Education: We need to have the most educated population in the world to work at and start tomorrow’s best new companies.
- Intelligent Immigration: We need immigration guidelines that allow our companies to attract the best talent from all over the world.
- National Health Care: A big risk for many entrepreneurs is that when the “quit their day jobs” to start a company that they generally don’t have enough money to get health insurance and can’t offer the best talent affordable health insurance.
- Better Wealth Equalities: At the current rate, there will only be more unrest (think Occupy Wall Street) that will cause continued drain of our government resources to monitor and police.
- A Buffet Rule Tax System: The rich need to pay the same rate as everyone else.
- Level Playing Field Regulation: Consistent regulations that don’t protect the status quo of big banks, big oil and the rich, but protect our citizens and spur innovation.
- Change from taxing labor to taxing resources: If we had a tax system that taxed the use of resources, but didn’t tax labor, there would be a tremendous shift from employing machines to do a job to employing people to do jobs.
There are huge opportunities for entrepreneurs to build organizations that make money, create jobs and solve some of the major challenges we face around climate change, excess consumption, resource depletion and our health care system. But we have to make a level playing field and stop favoring the few to protect their financial interests. It is a bad short and long term strategy for our country.