As you may have noticed, I am not exactly enamored of Donald Trump’s candidacy. I will continue to voice my reasons for that, but in the spirit of fairness I thought I would share a counterpoint from a Trump supporter who happens to be one of Atlanta’s business giants.
Writing at Real Clear Politics, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus says that, despite earlier backing a vastly different candidate in Jeb Bush, he is now on board with Trump as the GOP nominee. He cites a typical reason (Supreme Court appointments) before focusing on an area he knows pretty well:
“I draw even more from lessons learned when we founded The Home Depot in 1978 rather than from the contentious GOP primary of 2016. I genuinely believe that if we to started The Home Depot today, we would fail because of the hurdles government, especially the current administration, places in front of small business owners. I never forget The Home Depot’s small business roots — we started as a small business with four stores in Atlanta, Georgia.
“I think of the banker who nearly lost his job by taking a risk and giving us a line of credit when we started. He didn’t just look at our balance sheet; he believed in our character and determination. Government regulators don’t allow this under Dodd-Frank — a law Hillary Clinton wants to make far worse.
“And going public under Sarbanes-Oxley, a Clinton favorite? Not the company we built, nor thousands of other businesses like ours the nation will never know because they died at birth, strangled by faceless bureaucrats and politicians who erroneously believe that government ‘can do it better.’
“Yet the risks we took in the 1970s have resulted in millions of jobs — not just at The Home Depot, but at our suppliers, our vendors, and even our customers’ businesses. Investors believed in us, and the government did not stop us.
“We could not do this today, for the same reason why so many Americans have dropped out of the workforce, why their wages have been stagnant, why their health care is a mess, and why our economy has stalled. It’s Obama/Clinton-style government that’s getting in the way.
“I have never seen our government as hostile to free enterprise, especially small business, as it is today. It is driving over-regulation, over-taxation, over-litigation, and over-spending. These ‘overs’ are killing small businesses, which create the majority of new jobs in America.”
There is evidence to support this argument, and I am sympathetic to it. New-company formation between 2010 and 2014 was sharply lower — and much more geographically concentrated — than during comparable periods in the previous two decades. The rate of company “births” in recent years is lower, and the rate of company “deaths” higher, than in the previous four decades. IPOs have also been much lower since 2000, which just happened to be the end of the last economic expansion that wasn’t weighed down by Sarbanes-Oxley. These are some of the reasons growth in the economy, and in the labor market in particular, has been so lousy during the Obama years.
There is little doubt in my mind that Marcus is correct about what Clinton would do to the economy. The question remains whether Trump — who’s all over the place on such issues as taxes and the minimum wage and is apt to start a trade war (or wars) — would actually be better, or just bad in a different way.