When most lobbyists exit a meeting on Capitol Hill, they leave behind a one-pager, or, if they’re really ambitious, maybe a 30-page report.
John Dearie and Courtney Geduldig can offer something a lot bigger. The K Street duo wrote a 200-plus-page book, “Where the Jobs Are: Entrepreneurship and the Soul of the American Economy,” an accessible read — based largely on a 2011 summer road trip — that delves into some serious economic policy matters.
Don’t expect any Hunter S. Thompson or Jack Kerouac-style escapades when Dearie and Geduldig hit the road. But in dozens of roundtables with entrepreneurs around the country and from work with the Kauffman Foundation, the lobbyists-turned-authors explore the post-recession jobs crisis and lay out what they believe are the policy solutions.
They weigh in on a number of contentious debates: immigration, taxes, regulations. No matter which side of the aisle you hail from, there is something in this book you will hate and something you will embrace. “So we think we’ve got it just about right,” Dearie, who is executive vice president for policy at the Financial Services Forum, told CQ Roll Call during a recent interview.
The goal of their journey was not initially to write a book, but to put together a detailed report on the employment picture. They noted that by 2011, amid the sluggish economic recovery, millions of unemployed Americans had given up looking for work or had taken part-time jobs when they wanted full-time work. Dearie and Geduldig wanted to understand what was going on in the labor market to see if they could offer policies to solve the problem.
They soon realized they had a book to write. “By the time we laid out the problem, we were at 35 pages,” said Geduldig, a former banking aide to Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. She is now vice president of government and regulatory affairs for McGraw Hill Financial.
At the time, Geduldig and Dearie both worked at the forum and they got the group to sign over the rights of their research. They found an agent in New York and ultimately sold the book to the publisher John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Their biggest revelation, they say, is discovering where new jobs come from. Though many in Washington, D.C., talk about small businesses as the job creators and others work to protect tax incentives and other policies for existing big businesses, it turns out that startups, fledgling new businesses — think the future Googles — are the best hope for new jobs.
They write that “the reputation of small business as the engine of job creation is inaccurate — or, perhaps better stated, imprecise.” Existing companies, according to census data and Kauffman Foundation research, shed jobs every year, about 1 million of them. Startups, by contrast, add an average of 3 million net new jobs annually.
“I was absolutely shocked, flabbergasted,” Dearie said. “I didn’t know that new businesses were responsible for virtually all net new job creation.”
The problem? “Unfortunately, the vital signs for America’s job-creating entrepreneurial economy are flashing red alert,” they write.
Fewer Americans are starting businesses and the ones that have opened are struggling. That prompted the summer road trip to such places as York, Pa.; New York City; Memphis, Tenn.; Seattle; and Kansas City, Mo.
No matter where they went, in their sessions with entrepreneurs they heard the same things, and those themes became chapters.
Startups can’t find employees with the right education and skills. Regulations at the federal, state and local levels are “killing” entrepreneurship, they write. The tax system is a mess; new companies can’t get capital; and Washington itself, with its stalemate and brinkmanship, is a big part of the problem, they contend.
“We’re aware of how difficult Washington is because we work here,” Dearie said. “We’ve worked very hard to be even-handed, nonpartisan.”
They recommend specific education initiatives such as a $50,000 tax credit to students who complete collegiate work in science, technology, engineering or math. They also write that employers and educators should work more closely together in crafting curricula.
The chapter on education — which blasts the U.S. K-12 system and includes plenty of negative things about college graduates even from elite universities — is immediately followed by a section on immigration in which the authors say that people from around the world clamor to attend our universities.
Dearie, in the interview, said that while U.S. universities are “generally regarded to be the best in the world” they still often do not produce job-ready graduates. And startups, unlike bigger and established firms, typically don’t have time or spare money to train new hires.
“There’s absolutely no debate that in K-12, we are not competitive and we are not getting the job done,” Dearie told CQ Roll Call. “We perhaps should have spent more time on that seeming contradiction.”
They call for an overhaul to the immigration system to allow more high-skilled and would-be entrepreneurs to set up shop in the United States legally.
One entrepreneur they quote in the book, Tim Rowe, founder of the Cambridge Innovation Center in Massachusetts, says the nation’s immigration system built on protecting U.S. jobs has it backward.
“We’re threatening the creation of new jobs by preventing these incredibly talented entrepreneurs from overseas from coming here and building their businesses here,” he said.
They also recommend a preferential regulatory and tax framework for new businesses, and they call on Congress to embrace new trade deals and to make permanent a tax credit for research and development, among other proposals.
“The analysis presented in Where the Jobs Are builds a strong case for how essential entrepreneurs are to our country’s overall economic success,” wrote Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Mark Warner, D-Va., in an afterword to the book. The lawmakers have sponsored a bill known as the Startup Act that includes some of the ideas Dearie and Geduldig propose.
The authors say they will give profits, if there are any, to an undetermined charity that helps entrepreneurs.
Dearie, who has previously had a novel published, and first-time author Geduldig said they don’t have a sequel in the works. But their publisher has already pitched some ideas for another book, Geduldig said.