Twenty-some years ago, I was a young economic developer working in the City of Allentown, PA. My job frequently took me to city council meetings where I was able to witness fishbowl politics at its worst. There were plenty of important issues at stake for the city of 100,000 residents. Hit hard by decades of suburbanization and the rust-belt realities of northeastern PA, Allentown needed smart, selfless leaders who could legislate well-informed policies to save the economy of the city. But we didn’t have those leaders. We had Charlie and Emma and Tony and Joe. Most city council meetings were consumed with indignant bickering about procedure and protocol and indignities dealt in earlier campaigns.
If you’ve paused to read this post, and have read this far, you’re probably wondering why I’m sharing that story. It’s because our country appears to be run by small city politicians who don’t seem to let making a good decision get in the way of scoring for the party.
A few weeks ago, I posted a piece about the SBIR program. I liked it so much, I posted a second part to it! In those pieces, I tried to argue that the SBIR and STTR program are important pieces of American legislation and spending. They allow the economic engines of the country, namely entrepreneurs, produce innovation that big companies with vastly different economic standards than small business, simply cannot match. Through organizations like the National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy and others, your federal government is obligated to find small companies (sometimes very small, 2-person companies in Allentown and Bethlehem, PA) to receive federal funding for the most cutting edge research. As I argued in the pieces, the legislation and proposed changes to it, have flaws. But the discussion about the legislation was important and well-intentioned. And that’s where my flashback to my city council experience comes in.
Today I read this NY Times story about why the legislation to revamp the program is likely dead. Since I feel the revamp was not ideal, the fact that it is dead isn’t too painful. Assuming of course, that at least some “continuing” legislation is passed to keep it in its present form.
The story tells of how Senators Reid and Snowe bickered about procedure and protocol and failed to lead our country. The only, only, only reason I can come up with as to why meaningful legislation that empowers entrepreneurs in technology can’t be passed …is that too many in Washington are more concerned about themselves than about the other 300 million of us. The biggest insult I can think to throw at them is that they’re behaving like a bunch of small-city councilmen.
Believe me, it’s a pretty big insult.