The Secret to Victory: Feed The Opportunity, Starve The Problem

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by Ralph Benko, Contributing Author: There is a secret to Victory. It is hidden in plain sight. It is contained, in full, in one sentence of Peter Drucker’s breakthrough book The Effective Executive: "In every area of effectiveness within an organization, one feeds the opportunities and starves the problem" (p. 98. Emphasis original.)

Part of why the Dow hovers at 12,000, up from around 900 when Ronald Reagan began to wrest the presidency from the hapless Jimmy Carter, is that a lot of executives got Drucker’s message. This insight radically transforms business culture. Many companies that followed the advice to feed the opportunity, starve the problem enjoyed explosive growth.

The same insight can bring about explosive growth for a presidential candidate. For a party. For America.

Forty-five years later, however, Washington still hasn’t gotten the memo. None of the candidates (nor any member of the Congressional leadership) are showing how they will feed the opportunities and starve the problem.

The Problem: A titanic federal deficit. It fixates the party, and the candidates, in much the same way that a certain great white whale obsessed Captain Ahab, dooming him and almost his entire crew. The federal government surely is overdue to be cured of its gigantism. But the way to get there is by starving the problem—shrinking the deficit down to flounder size — not by courting a fatal confrontation.

Of equal importance, the way to get there is by feeding the opportunities. There is a wistful, almost cargo-cultish, sense in the GOP that … by invoking certain ritual formulas prosperity will return. It takes more than incantations.

Prof. Gingrich, the latest entrant into the fray, has called his plan, aptly if solipsistically, The Gingrich Jobs and Prosperity Plan. Professor Gingrich? We get that this is the Gingrich plan, shrewdly designed to get you a great job, president, and, come what may, prosperity. Gentle reminder? We mere voters want an American Jobs and Prosperity Plan.

There are a few gold nuggets in your plan but more deficiencies. It reads like a pastiche of ideas that poll well (especially in the Base). It goes vague on critical specifics. What you plan to do and how you plan to do it? "[R]eturning to the Reagan-era monetary policies?" Perhaps Paul Volcker is too advanced in age to wish to resume his duties? Perhaps 20% interest rates are not appetizing to us mere voters? Both Reagan and Kemp preferred the gold standard. Why flinch?

Former CEO Herman Cain contradicts himself. He’s for the gold standard… after the national debt is paid off. Godfather? The national debt hasn’t been paid off since … 1790. The data show that restoring a strong and stable dollar through gold convertibility is the surest, simplest, recipe for economic growth and deficit reduction.

Governor Pawlenty? What’s up with this horrifying prescription of "a basket of commodities." This confuses a bank with hardware store. "Here, Ms. Bank Teller, is some cash. Fill up this bag with a sheet of tin, a few grains of gold, a gram of silver, some plywood, a pork belly and some palladium." This is a euphemism for "I will trust the Federal Reserve to manage the dollar with reference to the producer price index." Governor, sir? Trusting the Fed to manage our money for us — rather than the tried and true gold standard - is political, and policy, suicide.

Once upon a time James Carville famously pistol-whipped his candidate, Bill Clinton, who had strayed into the policy weeds, by posting a sign at campaign headquarters: "It’s the Economy, Stupid." Pay attention. Republicans enter this cycle on probation. Why? In each of the three Republican administrations since Reagan economic growth averaged in the pathetic 2% range. No prosperity there. No votes, either.

Reagan stood for across-the-board marginal tax rate cuts and a strong dollar policy. These were existential — no pastiche — and extremely controversial. He also stood for traditional values and a strong, although not belligerent, America. The critics were unmerciful. He was ridiculed by the political elites — from within his own party ("Voodoo Economics!"), by the opposing party ("Amiable Dunce!"), all amplified by the elite media.

Reagan did not flinch. He used the controversy to unseat an incumbent and used the prosperity wrought by his policies to get himself re-elected in a landslide.

A real candidate will take a strong and clear stand and will valiantly court controversy. There is a simple prescription that updates and completes the Reagan-Kemp agenda. A prosperity narrative with an authentic prescription, while championing traditional values with valor, can get any of the contenders the nomination … and the White House.

There are a lot of ways to restore economic growth from the 2% range of the past decade to a vibrant 3% or even 4%. Growth of that magnitude will set the stage for massively larger revenue and smart, popular, spending cuts: the end of the warfare/welfare state.

The surest prescription is to restore gold convertibility. Washington always is the last to get the word. Pay attention. The gold standard has achieved mainstream respectability. It no longer is a haven for social dystopians. Respected figures are arguing the case for gold—in the mainstream media, no less. Lewis E. Lehrman, Sean Fieler, Steve Forbes, Jeffrey Bell, James Grant, William Kristol, Dr. Judy Shelton, John Tamny (the editor here and at realclearmarkets.com), with some of whom this writer is professionally associated. Many others — even, from the humanitarian Left, Mike Kinsley—respect gold as well.

Residual aversion to the gold standard tags you as not merely cautious but clueless. Tea Party Patriots stand for three things: fiscal responsibility, free markets, and constitutional integrity. The gold standard hits a bullseye on all three. The Iowa Tea Party actively is rallying around the gold standard. Many other tea party leaders embrace it. Political implications? Helllooo!

There are plenty of other elements for economic growth ripe for the plucking. Tax reform (lower rates!). Regulatory reform (bye bye Sarbox!). Energy policy (North America is the Saudi Arabia of shale oil). NetWorking [i.e., Telecommuting] : Pick up a cool quarter trillion!

Equally important are social values issues, especially traditional marriage. Marriage represents a principled position and a supercharged vote getter. Traditional marriage has won 31 out of … let’s see … 31 referenda. When Candidate McCain’s manager refused to let McCain campaign on it he went down to defeat in California—while straight marriage won.

Forty-five years later the GOP is badly overdue to get The Memo: "In every area of effectiveness within an organization, one feeds the opportunities and starves the problem." Time to wake up, Candidates. Trade in your harpoons for a whale-muzzle, get back to authentic, high octane, prescriptions for growth (and welcome the ridicule of the elites), real championship of traditional values, and constitutional first principles.

Do these things and Victory will be yours. You may go on to a greatness rivaling Reagan’s.
If you do not? Then call me Ishmael. For I alone am escaped to tell the tale.
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Ralph Benko is a senior economics advisor to The American Principles Project and author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World. He is working on a new book, called "A Golden Age: the political consequences of the peace." This article which first appeared in the Forbes was submitted by contributing author Ralph Benko to the editor of the ARRA News Servicefor reprint in other blogs.

Tags: Ralph Benko, Federal Government, federal deficit, fiscal responsibility, free markets, and constitutional integrity, Ronald Reagan, Tax reform, Regulatory reform, Energy policy, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to Conservative Voices. Thanks!

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