This column is part of a series about people outside the political mainstream who might be considered as potential presidents of the United States.
The Republican party is said to be leaderless and wandering without direction. This is partly true and mostly nonsense. The same could have been said of the Democrats after George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004. They were dispirited and adrift. Nobody could have foreseen Obama.
Is there someone out who we do not yet even know about who can lead the Republicans to the White House in 2012?
How about Fred Smith?
Fred Smith, the chairman and founder of FedEx, the overnight package delivery service. Fred Smith, the guy who wrote a theoretical proposal for a FedEx-type of company for an economics class at Yale and was reputed to have been given a C by the professor who apparently did not think much of the idea.
So much for academia…
Mississippi native Smith joined the Marines after graduating from Yale in 1966, and served two tours of duty in Vietnam. He started Federal Express in 1971 with a $4 million inheritance and $91 million in venture capital. In 1973, the company began offering service to 25 cities with small packages on Falcon DA-20 jets. Smith developed a pioneering integrated air-ground system and developed the company on the model of a bank clearing house.
Smith has built FedEx into a juggernaut of American business, one of the most reliable, smooth-running, forward-thinking companies in a fast-moving nation. Imagine a network of jetliners from all corners of the country converging on and then dispersing in every 24-hour cycle from one single hub (Memphis, Tennessee) to move packages quickly. It seems logical now, but before Fred Smith started Federal Express, nobody even had the idea, never mind the courage and savvy to carry it out.
The term “FedEx” even has become a verb, as in “Would you please FedEx this document to Houston?” to imply that it must get there pronto. When your company becomes part of the lexicon, that’s pretty powerful stuff.
Even the post office uses FedEx for Express Mail, Priority Mail and some first-class mail. Imagine that – a quasi-government monopoly relying on a private company like FedEx ($32 billion in revenue in 2007) to assure its business. Of course. Every government agency could be three or four times as efficient if it privatized. But liberals oppose that. They want full power over as much of American life as possible.
Right now Fred Smith is also the face of non-union America. FedEx has less than a 2% unionization rate for its 290,000 employees, just the pilots (5,000 of them). It pays its workers well and is a much stronger company than 50% unionized UPS which has 425,000 workers. FedEx stock has outperformed UPS substantially since 2001.
But Smith rightfully sees a current piece of union-friendly legislation as a threat to his business and its success. A bill before Congress would switch FedEx to the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Act from the National Railway Labor Act. The Railway act allows workers to organize if all workers vote on a union at the same time, which has thwarted unions that could not afford a single nationwide organizing campaign.
If FedEx workers were to be reclassified under NLRA they could organize into unions one terminal at a time.
Smith is so opposed to the idea of unionization that he has threatened to delay a planned $10 billion purchase of 30 new Boeing 777 cargo planes if Congress reclassifies the company under NLRA. This cancellation would hurt union and non-union contractors and subcontractors across the nation who are involved in the production of Boeing aircraft.
FedEx argues rightfully that the loss of cost-cutting flexibility that would come with unions would make it impossible to afford the planes. And this is classic union economics, and that is why unionized companies always suffer over the long run.
If the law is passed and FedEx is unionized, Smith sees yet another efficient American company losing its competitive edge. Eventually the unions could do to FedEx what they have done to the auto industry and hundreds of other companies throughout the 20th century – suck it financially dry and maybe even drive it out of business. Think of the steel industry and the railroads, which were hobbled by the unions.
Smith could be the guy who comes out of corporate America and, as president of the United States, tells the nation how he built a successful company based on free-market principles, not socialist coercion. He could then reform the American economy to produce more wealth and jobs for the people, and more freedom.
Barack Obama came out of nowhere to become president. He had no experience in life except as an academic and a political activist who had never created a single dime of wealth. Yet as president he wants to control more and more of the nation’s wealth and use it as he sees fit. Obama’s policies – like all of socialism – are going to cause suffering for our economy and our people because he does not understand the link between wealth “creation” and freedom. As he told Joe the Plumber, he wants to “redistribute the wealth” which always requires state power.
But you cannot redistribute wealth that is not being created in the first place.
Fred Smith has built and run a great American company. He is a success story – US Marine, entrepreneur, risk taker, icon. He has “created” wealth and jobs while Democrats only wish to “appropriate” that wealth through unions and taxation.
Which is better for the nation? Building wealth, or just redistributing the wealth that already exists?
Obviously Fred Smith would make a very good president.
Please visit my website at www.nikitas3.com for more. You can print out for free my book, Right Is Right, which explains why only conservatism can maintain our freedom and prosperity.