An easily understood example of this is the coffee house industry. In the 1980’s, Starbucks took the concept of the local coffee house where people meet and spend time together and drink beverages, and turned it in to a global business phenomena. And since the earliest beginnings of Starbucks, several other coffee house chains have been launched - Moxie Java, Tully’s Coffee, and Caribou Coffee to name a few - as an effort to capitalize on the burgeoning coffee house market. While today Starbucks remains the largest chain of its kind, these other newer and smaller companies have nonetheless benefited from Starbucks’ success, in as much as Starbucks essentially created the market for the modern-day coffee house in the first place.
But economic realities are one thing, and people’s perceptions and “feelings” are something different. And at present America is surrounded by an ever-present hostility towards profitable businesses – much of which emanates from the highest levels of our government.
Some of us saw this era of hostility coming. Back in 2008 while he was campaigning for the presidency, Then-Senator Obama made it a point to chastise American businesses nearly every time a robust earnings report was published. In the summer of that year, as an example, speaking to a stadium full of adoring followers, the President-to-be made it clear his disdain for the petroleum industry:
“First of all,” candidate Obama stated, “you’ve got oil companies making record profits…no… no companies in history have made the kind of profits the oil companies are makin’ right now…They..they…….one company, Exxon Mobil, made eleven billion dollars…billion, with a “b” ….last quarter….they made eleven billion dollars the quarter before that…makin’ money hand-over-fist…makin’ out like bandits…”
Imagine that! “Makin’ out like bandits” – that’s an amazing assessment of a successful business enterprise, suggesting that posting profits is tantamount to thievery. Of course at that moment in time, the early signs of a recession were appearing, and it was politically viable to send the message that “if we can’t all prosper right now, then none of us should prosper right now,” and his vitriol over the profitability of the Exxon Mobil Corporation played well with the crowd.
Yet Mr. Obama’s disdain for business “profits” has continued throughout his presidency. Fast forward to February 7th of 2011 when the President addressed an audience of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Speaking of the improving balance sheets that were emerging within many American companies at that time, President Obama stated: “The benefits can’t just translate into greater bonuses and profits for those at the top. They have to be shared by American workers, who need to know that expanding trade and opening markets will lift their standards of living, as well as your bottom line…”
These were the words of our Ivy League-graduate, Nobel Prize-winning U.S. President. Surely he, of all people, understands that profits aren’t simply “shared” - they are “earned.” And surely he realizes that when a company is profitable, it’s not merely the C.E.O. that benefits (investors, employees, and customers benefit from profitability as well). Certainly the President of the United States understands these most basic concepts of free market enterprise – doesn’t he?
But we never hear that from our President. Nor do we hear much praise at all for successful, profitable enterprise from anybody in our government. It’s usually anger and disgust when profits are good, and promises of intervention and “stimulus” when profits are bad.
It’s a very self-serving and destructive game that our politicians play. And they will keep on playing until Americans demand differently – and until Americans come to terms with profits.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.