When panellists at the American Institute of CPAs’ spring Council meeting in Washington were asked Wednesday how to fix the economy, business leaders and politicians talked about familiar themes: balancing the federal budget and avoiding deficit spending. They said complex regulations are crippling some businesses.
But Traci Lynn, CEO and founder of Traci Lynn Fashion Jewelry, offered something different. She talked about personal responsibility—and the power of a positive outlook—during a presentation called “What We Need to Do to Stimulate the Economy”.
Lynn said she doesn’t watch the news in the morning because it’s too negative. She said people need to set goals and achieve them.
“Attitude, for me, sets the tone,” Lynn said. “And I have a lot of people depending on me looking on the brighter side.”
Bob Graham, a panellist who served Florida as a U.S. senator and governor, expanded on Lynn’s personal responsibility theme.
He said the US political system, if not over, is close to the cliff, and that citizens need to demand that elected officials cooperate and help fix the problem.
He also said regulations need to be clear, simple and sustainable, and written with the understanding that time is valuable. The US tax code especially needs to be simplified, said Graham, who was one of 10 members of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which was established to examine the causes of the financial and economic crisis in the United States.
“I’m a simple, clear person,” Graham said. “I think that’s what allows people to do what’s expected of them.”
Other panellists highlighted a range of concerns and ideas during the hour-long session.
Timothy Christen, CEO of accounting and business advisory firm Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP, said his clients, particularly those in healthcare, need more certainty about regulations before they act. He said his clients have a lot of cash and want to make capital investments. “But they don’t know what the economy is going to do and they don’t know what the government is going to do to their funding,” Christen said. “And if we get some certainty there, I think we’ll see healthcare organisations start spending money.”
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad seized on the healthcare issue to discuss wellness initiatives in his state. He said he is supporting community partnerships to encourage Iowans to exercise, eat healthy and avoid tobacco consumption. He said his goal is to make the state the healthiest in the nation—a push to make it more attractive to companies that would want to locate there.
Branstad also talked about a public-private partnership to revitalise the Iowa state fairgrounds, saying not-for-profits can play an important role in the recovery and that CPAs can help by aiding not-for-profits in managing their finances. “You’ve got to make sure it’s being done in the right way and being audited,” he said.
Neal Spencer, CEO of accounting firm BKD LLP, said the government must be willing to reduce spending. “The people that do very well financially, they’re willing to pay a little more in taxes,” he said. “But there’s a tradeoff. They want the government to cut spending and balance their budget. And if the government’s not willing to do that, they’re not willing to pay more taxes.
And I think the one thing we have to get resolved before the end of the year is, what’s going to happen to the tax rate.”
But Lynn’s entrepreneurial message was one of the highlights that added energy to the discussion.
She talked about hiring a worker whose retirement prospects were threatened after her hours working in a healthcare job had been slashed. Lynn said some of her employees had avoided foreclosure on their homes after her company hired them.
She said having the right outlook can make a difference.
“I’m glad for this discussion,” she said. “I’m grateful for my financial advisers around me. They can keep me informed. But the mind and the attitude is everything for me, and I set the tone based on that positive mindset.”
—Ken Tysiac (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.