Short-term gain or long-term pain: For entrepreneurs, for all of us it’s time to wise up

Editor’s note: David Gardner is founder of Cofounders Capital in Cary and is a regular contributor to WRAL TechWire. He and other columnists are part of our regular Startup Monday package.

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CARY – It is said that sprinters never win marathons.  This is especially true when it comes to the economy.   US markets are like a giant ship.   You have to turn the wheel many miles ahead of where you want to see the actual course correction.  Unfortunately, economic policy is often made by those with very short terms views and goals which leads to problems when you are playing the economic long game.

For example, in a January 2019 article, I discussed the short term affects of what happens when government decides to severely restrict US immigration, the number of H1 visas permitted and to elongate the time required for immigrants to work legally in the US.  In addition to the short-term effects that I discussed then, we know also know the long-term affects of these policies.

David Gardner (Cofounders Capital photo)

People buying homes today don’t think much about what immigration policy was like years earlier but they do feel the pain of having to pay 30% more for a house.  I listened to a great editorial on UNC radio a few weeks back discussing a study of what caused the dramatic rise in the cost of housing.   Although there were many contributing factors the most predominate one on the list was “historic immigration policies.”  Turns out that new immigrants make up a huge proportion of the US construction workforce.  Every home builder I know tells me that they are now having to wait sometimes months to get the subcontractors they need to finish a project.  The longer it takes to get new houses on the market the lower the supply and thus the cost of all housing goes up.

Restrictions placed on skilled worker H1 visas years ago have been a major contributor to the tremendous shortage of US talent today increasing employers labor costs.  When a company’s costs rise dramatically, they have to pass those costs along to consumers in the form of price increases which can to lead to runaway inflation.

Political campaign commercials generally argue that if you don’t like something about the economy then just vote out the current administration when in fact, they should say, “it’s too late now, you voted in the last administration.”  In truth, when it comes to the economy, the most significant changes any administration can make for good or bad are often not realized for many years in our long game economy.

At the State level, short run thinking is also often the norm.  For years I have spoken out and written articles about the need for an effective VC multiplier fund in NC to encourage more early stage venture capital firms to set up their funds here and invest in NC.  Almost every NC legislator I have spoken with seemed to agree…so why don’t we have a real multiplier fund today?

One unnamed and extremely honest legislator finally explained it to me over beer a couple of years ago.  Although he admitted that planting new company seeds here in NC was by far the best path to creating jobs and economic growth in the long run, it would take several years for those seeds to grow and become major employers.  In complete candor he said, “That just makes the next administration look good.”  He continued, “Complex long-term solutions just don’t tend to win elections no matter how much good sense they make.”

Every time I watch a campaign commercial these days I am reminded of what Steve Jobs once said, “If the solution to a complex problem seems simple to you then you don’t yet understand the problem.”

The solutions we need today involve long-term thinking and patience not twenty-second commercial sound bites solutions.  Until voters are willing to spend at least as much time absorbing credible research as they do watching political ads, I fear that we will continue to get short-terms solutions that don’t solve our long-term economic problems.

The words of George Bernard Shaw have never been truer than they are today when he writes, “Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”

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