Skip to main content

OBAMA vs. ROOT- Two Very Different Career Paths from Columbia University Class of 1983: The Case for a Small Businessman as President

By September 17, 2007No Comments
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Barack Obama and I both graduated from the same class at the same college- Columbia University, Class of '83. We both chose the same major-Political Science. Today we are both running for President of the United States. The only difference is that Barack is the darling of the liberal news media- who give him a "free pass" on whether he's qualified to run the greatest country and economy in world history. Since we come from such similar educational backgrounds, yet we each chose such divergent paths since graduation, I thought a study of what each has accomplished in the "real world" might shed some light on who is best qualified to occupy the White House and run the greatest economy in world history.

Upon graduation, I decided not to pursue a law degree and career as an attorney. I wanted to change the world, not sue the world. I therefore chose a career as an entrepreneur. My classmate Barack chose a very different path- he has spent much of the past quarter century as a law student, lawyer, law professor, community activist and career politician. Are those the qualifications for running the greatest economy in world history? Are those qualifications for commanding the greatest military force in world history? What is a "community activist" anyway? Isn't that just a professional protestor? Al Sharpton is a "community activist." What exactly has Mr. Sharpton ever done besides lead protest marches and attract media attention through fanning the flames of controversy? Does anyone think that Mr. Sharpton should run America? Or run the American economy? How is Barack's life experience any different?

What experience learned as a "community activist" prepares someone to lead a country? I am perplexed. In media reports Barack himself admitted that only 7 years ago, he did not have the money to buy an airplane ticket to attend the 2000 Democratic National Convention. An airplane ticket costs about $400 (at the most). To be honest, the inability of a grown man (with an Ivy League degree) to afford a $400 airline ticket frightens the heck out of me. If you can't figure out a way to earn enough money to buy an airline ticket, I don't want you anywhere near the White House. I'm by no means super-wealthy, but I'd guess I've flown (and therefore purchased) close to a thousand flights in my adult life. That's what competent business executives do- we fly to wherever we find good business opportunities. The cost of the plane ticket is not an issue for any semi-successful adult. To be honest, never once have I ever thought about whether to buy a plane ticket or not. If you have to think before buying a plane ticket, you're certainly no business whiz. As a matter of fact, I'd say your entire understanding of business and money would come into question. You certainly shouldn't be in charge of the United States economy! Should this story of Barack Obama's lack of success only 7 short years ago give the American people pause? It certainly should. I don't want this guy anywhere near my money…or the American economy.

In that same quarter century since Barack and I graduated from Columbia University, I've led a very different life. I've experienced both up and downs, success and failure, as a "serial entrepreneur" and business leader. As a small businessman, I've raised tens of millions of dollars to found numerous businesses; paid hundreds of weekly payrolls (often $50,000 and above); created hundreds of jobs for my employees; taken my company public on Wall Street; and created hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues for the U.S. economy. Today, I'm proud to report that I'm the only small businessman running for President. I've earned a fantastic income over the years, yet I far from super wealthy. I live in the real world- I still understand the problems and worries of real Americans. I have 3 young children and a new baby Root on the way. I still worry every day about my bills, paying my mortgage, my payroll taxes (for my business), my property taxes, my health insurance (for dozens of employees), and paying for my children's future college educations (4 of them).

How important are small businesses (and small businessmen and women) to the U.S. economy? I'm Founder, Chairman and CEO of a small business that has struggled often since founding in 2000. Yet even a struggling young business has created about $50 million in spending for the U.S. economy. Whether that company makes money or loses money, we still had to spend tens of millions in advertising, marketing, rent, payroll, payroll taxes, health insurance, massive phone bills, office furniture, computer equipment, lawyers, accountants, etc. With all that spending we made countless media buyers, ad agency executives, insurance brokers, landlords, lawyers and stockbrokers wealthy.

All that money we paid to our vendors, employees and business associates was in turn used by them to pay their office rent, payroll taxes, property taxes, personal mortgages, restaurant and grocery bills, etc. Each dollar was spent at least ten times over. All that money that I raised and spent paid for the salaries and mortgages of my employees. They in turn paid for the mortgages and salaries of the employees of the banks that hold their mortgages. My employees bought homes- thereby paying the salaries, mortgages and taxes of builders, mortgage brokers, real estate brokers, attorneys, roofers, painters, electricians, plumbers, and many others. It paid for their groceries and visits to restaurants and movie theatres. That $50 million in spending that my small business created out of thin air (multiplied by ten), actually adds up to a $500 million effect on the American economy. One little 'ole small businessman like me- by founding one small business- has had a $500 million effect on this great country. Now multiply that effect times millions of small businessmen just like me- and you'll start to understand why small business is the backbone of the American economy. Without the courage of entrepreneurs and small businesspersons risking their life savings, assets, and financial security to startup a business, none of this happens. Billions of dollars are lost forever. Millions of jobs are cut. The American economy falters and contracts. We become France (a country where entrepreneurship is discouraged).

Where was my college classmate Barack Obama while I was doing all that? Studying books. Leading protest marches. Perhaps suing people that create jobs and pump millions into the economy (that's what lawyers do). What does he know about the economy, about business, about creating jobs, about the stress and pressure of making $50,000 payrolls every week? What does he know about pumping tens of millions of dollars into the American economy? The answer is that he knows nothing about all that. Like most professional students, professors, community activists and lawyers- what Barack knows about business, he's read in a book.

But book-smart knowledge has never created a job, or paid a payroll. Not one. But to be fair, Barack isn't alone. Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Bill Richardson have never started a business, run a business, risked their own money on a business, created jobs, or pumped millions into the U.S. economy either. For that matter, most of the GOP Presidential candidates have never started or run a business either (but at least they applaud, appreciate and support business and try to keep the tax burden down on the job creators). John McCain has never run a business. Ron Paul is a doctor- he knows zero about how business works. Rudy Guliani is a former prosecutor. Fred Thompson is an actor and former attorney.

Yet all of these clueless politicians think they are qualified to run the greatest economy in the world. The only Presidential candidate that truly understands business is Mitt Romney. He's worth over $250 million. Mitt can buy and sell a small businessman like me. But he was born into wealth and privilege. Mitt's dad was Governor of Michigan and CEO of American Motors. He has no clue about the problems of average Americans, or the backbone of our economy- small businessmen. Mitt has been in big business since the day he was born- with every possible door opened for him by a very powerful, wealthy, connected father. Mitt has never even spelled the word "struggle." Mitt is brilliant and successful, but out of touch with ordinary Americans.

I'm a S.O.B. (son of a butcher). I'm the only candidate who started with blue collar roots (excuse the pun); who now has business know-how and experience; who lives in the real world and understands the role and importance and concerns of small business. For 50 years now, we've voted for Presidential candidates who are multi-millionaire, out-of-touch, big business CEO's; or lawyers turned career politicians and government bureaucrats; or spoiled brat lucky-sperm-club members born to the right father and mother. Have they done a good job? Maybe it's time to elect a common-sense small businessman with a young family, a big mortgage, and who faces all the same problems and concerns as average Americans- overwhelming taxes, expensive and inadequate health insurance, and the biggest problem of all- getting our kids a good education. We certainly couldn't do worse with a S.O.B. (son of a butcher) small businessman than we've done with career politicians and out-of-touch millionaires.

I'm sure my old college classmate Barack is a nice guy. I'm certain he's a smart guy. I know he went to a great college! But the path he's chosen has not prepared him to run the greatest and most powerful country in the history of civilization. Not by a long shot. First he needs to take his entire life savings- that he's only earned by achieving fame and writing books in the last 3 years- and invest it all in a business, create a few jobs, pay a few big payrolls, and pump a few million dollars into the economy. Spend a few years risking everything you've got Barack, then watch as government regulations strangle your progress every step of the way…and high taxation prevents you from re-investing in your company's success. Then in 4 to 8 years come back and we'll talk. Maybe then he'll understand business a little better. Maybe then he'll understand the burden of taxes on the very people who take all the risk and create all the jobs. Maybe then Barack will be ready to run the U.S. economy. Maybe. Until then, remember this wise saying: "Those who can, do (run a business); those who can't teach (law); those who can't even teach, become career politicians and run the country." No wonder we're in such trouble. We choose to elect the wrong people to lead our nation.

By Wayne Allyn Root, Candidate for the Libertarian Party Presidential Nomination