Why can’t it be John Chambers running for President? On CNBC’s Squawk Box this morning, the Executive Chairman and former CEO of Cisco Systems said he’s a moderate Republican. And yet he spoke admiringly about Bill Clinton’s 8 years as President. When, Chambers said, 22.5 million jobs were created. And there was 17% growth in real per capita income. The Information Age. The last time, Chambers added, America got a pay raise.
Fast forward to the current election cycle. We’re in the Digital Age. Which Chambers thinks could have the same effect on America and its people. Only 3 to 5 times larger. Except – he says – the US is missing the bandwagon. Unable to move fast enough to create the start-ups needed if middle America is to benefit. Because business and government have to work together to make a digital plan. Something we don’t have — but every other country in the world does according to Chambers. And is implementing them. Quickly. Even countries with recalcitrant unions and socialist leanings. Like France. They have a meeting or 2 or 10. With the relevant players. How do we create a million new business jobs? What tax reform is needed? How do we “re-skill” (Chamber’s interesting substitute for “retrain”) the unemployed and underemployed? The middle class? What about childhood education? Then you walk away Chambers said — and come back 6 months later. And it’s done.
As I said — why couldn’t John Chambers be on the ballot in November?
When I look around me at this country — I see political stalemate instead of cooperation. And no urgency to change. A Congress controlled by one party determined to thwart anything suggested by the President from the other party. And vice versa. A legislative system completely broken At best a government treading water. And business? The thinkers like Chambers are in Washington this week. Trying to pound some sense into everyone. The rest are mostly making apologies to Wall Street for a bunch of less than stellar quarterly reports. Any US digital plan is far, far from the top of the agenda. Again – my thoughts – not Chambers’.
We haven’t even gotten to the general election itself yet. It’s still primary season. And yet we are already battle weary. Our ears plugged against the insults hurled party to party and candidate to candidate. Instead of the serious discussions we so desperately need. And it can only get worse.
John Chambers says 92% of the jobs created over the next decade will require some kind of technology skills. In both the service industry and in manufacturing. Requiring the courage to make fundamental changes in order to fill most of those jobs with American middle class workers earning real American middle class wages. Chambers and his co-business thinkers have some ideas. Some possible plans. But it seems to me no one who can do anything about implementing those plans is listening. Or more to the point — acting.
I was going to write about the Apple controversy. And how CEO Tim Cook’s refusal to roll over and let the FBI tell him to create a backdoor to Apple’s vaunted iPhone encryption is a classic clash between two great rights – privacy and national security. I was going to add in antivirus software founder John McAfee’s post volunteering his band of hackers to break just the one iPhone in question –used by one of the San Bernardino killers. I was going to say that like many people, I don’t really know who is right. Which right has to give way for the greater good. And which right IS the greater good in this case. And finally I was going to add how I certainly don’t want any person or entity or agency or government to have the key to what’s in my own iPhone.
But tonight – listening to the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton make her victory speech in the Nevada caucuses – I decide to leave the Apple controversy for another, longer day. Because Clinton, mentioning how important small businesses and entrepreneurs were to the overall need to create good jobs, made me think about something central to this Presidential election. How do we create enough GOOD jobs for all the angry people left behind by the technological revolution? And all the young people who’ll need good jobs in the future?
You can’t turn everyone into an IT code writer. Or doctor. Or lawyer. Or basketball player. Or musician. Not everyone can graduate from high school with advanced placement credits. Or sail through college with a huge loan right into that great new high tech world. It isn’t just lack of the right education at the primary and secondary level. It’s interests. It’s native abilities. It’s caring about something enough to make it and you a success.
Almost everyone has something they really care about. Something they’d spend long hours learning about and doing. And I think many of those interests and abilities can be turned into small businesses. Which may be where to find the good jobs we need.
In the small suburban towns where I live, Main Streets are alive again with all kinds of little stores and businesses. Many women with kids find they can develop home-based businesses around something they always did for pleasure. Like making gloriously good cupcakes.
Maybe the entrepreneur part comes in when you look around and identify a need you can fill with your business and knowledge. Maybe we can foster this way of looking at the world and your place in it if we start early enough in school. And maybe we can use the internet to reach the older worker who’s stuck in a town where the industry has gone away. Even without broadband at home, everyone who can drive to a connected library (and most are) can have the benefit of an online career counselor. And basic courses. And whatever else might work.
Small businesses are the job engines of our world. Ask any economist. Maybe instead of making all these empty, grandiose promises, our political candidates this year might look around at the people who come to their rallies –and develop some targeted business programs aimed at them. Because if a small, one person business is successful, it will hire someone else. And someone else.