A new name from the Northwest has entered our lives. I’ll bet you’ve never heard of him. His name is Nick Hanauer. He’s not a politician. But, if politicians would listen to him – as you’ll have a chance to do in a minute – that swamp of gridlock we call the U.S. Congress could solve every problem before it in a one-week session. Guaranteed.

Hanauer lives in Seattle. He’s a billionaire. Several times over. Looks to be about 50. He started in a family-owned Seattle business, co-founded another local company and franchised it. In the 90’s, he was one of the first investors in Amazon.com, then another company called gear.com – which then merged with Overstock.com. In 2007, he started aQuantive which Microsoft bought for $6.4 billion. As I said billionaire+.

He gave a speech to a business group a couple of weeks ago. What he said so surprised and angered the sponsors they tried to suppress videos made of his presentation. They got most. Not all. You can see one they missed.

This is about six minutes long. No music. No special effects. Nobody but Nick. Please listen. Then keep reading.

The simplicity and clarity of Hanauer’s speech are remarkable. You didn’t hear it all. Here’s a couple of additional thoughts.

To further make his point about building a strong and economically comfortable middle class on which to base a stable, growing national economy, he used this example. If 3,000 families have enough income to each go buy a new car, that’s 3,000 new cars sold. But if Hanauer – the billionaire – makes enough money to buy 3,000 cars, he might go buy – one. Or he might not. Even a member of congress ought to see the very basic and solid economic value of that example. Well, most of ‘em anyway.

Hanauer believes we need more shoppers. “I can’t buy enough of anything,” he says, “to make up for the fact that millions of underemployed and unemployed Americans can’t.” Also this. “Consider, for example, that a puny three-percent surtax on incomes above $1 million would be enough to expand the current payroll tax cut beyond December, preventing a $1,000 increase on the average worker’s taxes at the worst possible time.”

As you might expect, there was an immediate knee-jerk reaction from the establishment set. Again, the sponsor of the event tried to kill recordings of Hanauer’s speech. And Forbes Magazine predictably did a quick hatchet piece headlined “The Ignorance of Nick Hanauer’s TED Speech.”

One staffer wrote of the efforts to round up all the recordings “It was just a case of the…organizers deciding this particular presentation was categorically mediocre, a conclusion with which I firmly concur.” Another Forbesian chimed in “It was worse than mediocre: it was deeply ignorant of the very subject under discussion.” And on and on. And on some more.

If you took my invitation to listen to just six-minutes of Hanauer’s speech, I leave it to you to decide. My vote – after the speech and a cursory reading of his book “The True Patriot” and a visit to the website of his political action think tank “The True Patriot Network” – that vote goes to Hanauer.

Republicans in Congress that used to be called “leaders” are leaders no more. On one hand, they’re prisoners of the far right and scared to death they’ll lose their fancy titles and Gucci loafers if they consider – even consider – a penny in new taxes. On the other, they’ve been given so much money from the very billionaires who ought to be paying more that they’re more attentive to the “whine and cheese” set than to public polling saying repeatedly “Do your damned jobs!”

Maybe some billionaires look at Nick Hanauer as a traitor. But from what I can determine from his successful career(s), his writings, his think tank positions and his pronouncements, he ought to be more listened to by the billionaires, the congress and the rest of us. He has more to gain by keeping his mouth shut and enjoying his 15% tax status and all the other “legal” hiding places the rich have available to them.

But he chooses to make his points in easy-to-understand ways no matter which of the avenues available to him he uses. If the folks at Forbes want to call him “ignorant” and “mediocre,” while sipping their $40 a bottle scotch, so be it. If members of congress want to ignore the pathways he offers out of our national problems, so be it.

But a guy who makes the kind of elementary sense he does, speaking from personal platforms of demonstrated successes, ought to be listened to by the rest of us. We may be better educated by his message.

If we fail to undertake some of the actions he suggests, I believe we do so at our own national peril.

Comments are closed.