On November 5, 2002, we have the opportunity to select our next U.S. Senator to represent North Carolina. This Senate race will significantly impact the political balance of our nation’s Congress as it considers signal issues of national security, a balanced budget and health care reform, as well as the potential appointment of Supreme Court Justices. Given the rapidly increasing costs of employee health care and already substantial burden of employment taxes alone, the management of these issues will significantly impact business’ bottom line, already suffering from a depressed allegedly recovering economy.
While all of the candidates for office are reasonably qualified, I can personally attest to Erskine Bowles’ ability to successfully maneuver in the political arena, as well as his accomplishments in representing business interests.
I have known Erskine for nearly ten years now, ever since he was appointed administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration in 1993. I was president of National Small Business United, representing over 60,000 small businesses across the country, and we wanted to learn more about his interest and qualifications. We had watched a succession of failed politicians assume that role and the agency was deteriorating.
In our very first conversation, he introduced himself and, after answering a few questions, he said outright, “You know, the President has asked me to do this and I want to do all I can to help him succeed. I have worked with small businesses for many years. You obviously know a lot about small business issues and the SBA. I would like your help to learn as much as I can to prepare for this position and for my confirmation. Will you share what you know and help me prepare? I want you to know I will do all I can to do right by small business.”
In subsequent meetings and conversations, I continued to be impressed with Erskine’s financial expertise and grasp of business issues, as well as his keen sense of what was needed and could be done. Most people would agree, Erskine Bowles was quite possibly the best and most effective SBA administrator the agency has ever had. While at the SBA, he simplified the small business loan application from a booklet that was 1 1/2 inches thick to a half of one page. He increased the amount of funding available for small businesses by nearly $5 billion and increased lending to women-owned and minority enterprises as well. In addition, he made the SBA more responsive, faster and more efficient, as well as boosted staff morale. His success earned him a seat on the National Economic Council and a role within the President’s cabinet. He garnered more recognition and clout for small business in that presidential administration than had been seen in many years.
Even more profound than his impact on the SBA, however, was Erskine Bowles’ role in balancing the federal budget. Elevated to the President’s Chief of Staff in 1996, Erskine Bowles had his unwavering focus on negotiating the first balanced federal budget in nearly 30 years. Erskine Bowles, along with then Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin and OMB Director Franklin Raines, negotiated with Republican leaders including Senator Trent Lott and Speaker Newt Gingrich from Congress. Together, over many weeks, their bipartisan efforts hammered out a balanced budget bill that was signed into law on August 5, 1997. As a result, the federal government began to pay down its debts, borrowed less money and interest rates began to fall.
With the number of Americans over age 65 increasing five to eight times faster than the working-age population and the concomitant burgeoning of our federal obligations of social security and Medicare, we must be even more vigilant to balance our federal budget and restrain deficit spending except for national emergencies. Erskine Bowles will be a responsible steward and valuable advocate for protecting our national interests, meeting our federal obligations, checking wasteful spending and reducing taxes whenever possible.
Erskine Bowles knows how to keep his priorities straight. He knows how to focus on critical objectives and work for progress. He is never too busy to respond to concerns and often follows up with a phone call or handwritten note. His community involvement and personal attention to others is an essential attribute for one serving in the U. S. Senate. He will make an excellent Senator for North Carolina.
We join with our fellow Americans in mourning the loss of life in the September 11, 2001, World Trade tragedy, but celebrate our increasingly appreciated freedoms and liberties as Americans on this, the anniversary of that human disaster.