Secretary Elaine Chao

 
 
 

Topic A - The Next 100 Days

In the next 100 days, President Obama can change the perception that his only approach to governing is strictly more spending, taxes and bureaucracy. He could start by becoming the champion of small enterprises. While media attention is on big corporate bailouts, most Americans work at small companies, many of them “mom and pop” enterprises. Stimulating their growth through targeted tax relief and less punitive bureaucracies would position them to lead America out of this recession. Conversely, higher taxes, enterprise-strangulating bureaucracies and trade protectionism will keep America’s historical job-creating engine sputtering.

As the president is making the federal government do more, he should also direct it to do better and with less. At the Labor Department from 2001 to 2008, we cut discretionary spending while achieving record improvements in worker safety and health. Enforcement was coupled with compliance assistance to protect workers and help employers avoid violating federal regulations in the first place. If the president can solve the equation of the government doing more, better and with less, then he will truly be a transformative leader.

To do so, he needs to break out of the liberal box in which trillion-dollar deficits don’t matter, taxpayers are a bottomless well and employers are the enemy. The president can’t put everyone on the federal payroll. It is the private sector’s success or failure—especially the fate of small enterprises—that will determine whether the Obama administration is judged a success.