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The Entrepreneur's Holiday Wish List

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Here's what it would take for America's risk-takers to start taking risks again.

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What are America's entrepreneurs wishing for from the government for Christmas and the New Year ahead?

The answers might surprise you. Most fellow company founders and job creators I've talked with don't have "holding the line on personal income tax rates" at the top of their wish lists. They understand we're in the midst of a fiscal crisis and know all Americans will have to contribute to solve our fiscal challenges.

Instead, what they most want for Christmas is stability, predictability, and bipartisanship in the nation's political climate. They're desperate for an end to the brinksmanship and ideological posturing that passes for governance these days and want it to be replaced by compromise, agreement, and sensible decisive action going forward.

Sure, it's a big wish – kind of the entrepreneur's version of "All I want for Christmas is world peace, Santa." But is it really too much to ask for?

Entrepreneurs are born risk-takers, but they like to take risks they can evaluate and at least partially control. What they don't like, and what can quickly freeze them up, is political risk: the idea that an unpredictable and unaccountable government will either make arbitrary decisions or no decisions at all about key areas of the budget, the economy, and vital sectors like health care, education, and national defense.

Political risk is usually associated more closely with third world nations or perennially fiscally reckless basket case countries like Greece or Argentina than the US. The idea that we're a week away from 2013 with no budget, no set tax rates, and no prospect of closing a massive deficit that inevitably will wreak havoc with our currency and our capital formation process is both disconcerting and terribly disheartening.

But it's hard to see entrepreneurs getting what we're wishing for. Washington has become a ridiculous and dysfunctional parody of itself. We ask Congress to pass a budget and the president to carry that budget out. None of that's happening. Instead we have a national drama of pettiness, jealousy, and envy that makes Toddlers and Tiaras -- from Discovery Communications' TLC Network (NASDAQ:DISCA) -- look dignified and intellectual. With just days to go until the fiscal cliff, all the key players are spending valuable time pointing fingers and posturing instead of hammering out solutions that would attract bipartisan support.

With no clear national economic policy or even overarching philosophy of government apparent, entrepreneurs have tended to become abnormally risk averse, putting off major investment decisions. And worse for our current situation, they're burying any notion of adding to employee headcount.

There's a world of corporate and investment fund cash stashed away in deposit and money market accounts earning almost precisely zero yield. Anything that could vaguely pass for a functioning federal government not headed over the fiscal cliff and capable of settling on a multi-year, fiscally sound direction for the country's finances could probably coax a lot of that money off the sidelines and into new job-creating and innovation-spewing enterprises.

But nothing approaching that kind of rationally-behaving, moderately competent government is anywhere in sight. And so the uncertainty grows, and the job creation machine lies dead in the water.
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