name content Liz Carter: The serious businesswoman who would capsize a certain Georgia Democrat — The North Star National

Liz Carter: The serious businesswoman who would capsize a certain Georgia Democrat

It’s often said about certain areas that are so dominated by one party that a Democrat (or as the case may be, a Republican), “couldn’t lose there if he tried.”

Well.

Georgia’s 4th congressional district is so heavily Democratic, it would be hard for a Democratic incumbent to lose there even if . . . well, even if he said something so stupid he became the laughingstock of the entire nation.

Reality.

Like, say, that he feared the island of Guam would become so heavily populated it might tip over and capsize. Like Congressman Hank Johnson.

If it’s possible to defeat Johnson, who won 76 percent of the vote in his last, pre-Guam-capsizing-comment race, the beneficiary looks to be Republican LIz Carter – a 41-year-old businesswoman who is having plenty of fun with Johnson’s misstep, but also minces no words about the shortcomings of current leadership on the Hill, or about what Republicans would need to do in the event they take back control of some or all of Congress in 2011.

“They’re idiots,” Carter says in offering her assessment of current Democratic leaders. “A bunch of jokers. We have a bunch of jokers up there who don’t understand business.”

Carter understands it all too well, having risen to a leadership position with Novell at the age of 22, having run her own consulting business for the past decade, and having had to face tough budget and spending decisions on more than one occasion.

In the private sector, of course, you don’t just get to spend whatever you want and figure you can borrow as much of it as you like in perpetuity. But if you’ve never had to manage a serious budget under real-life budgeting constraints, you don’t know that. And to Carter, one of the biggest problems with current congressional leadership is that – absent this experience – they don’t understand that sometimes you have to tell people no.

“What we have in Congress today are attorneys, or people who have been brought up through the system,” Carter said. “Less than 10 percent of members of Congress have owned or operated their own business or been a high-level executive of a company.”

That means Carter has faced down the sort of ridiculous request that members of Congress approve with regularity.

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“When I worked at Novell, I remember the day we were doing massive layoffs, and someone came in and asked me to spend more money,” Carter said. “I just said, ‘I’m not spending more money.’”

That sort of experience, Carter said, could be applied to the nation’s urgent need to do something about unfunded entitlement liabilities. Although no one can seriously deny that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (and now ObamaCare) have the nation headed for a fiscal calamity, few will be candid with the electorate – particularly seniors – about the changes and sacrifices that will be necessary to set things right.

Then again, few have had to do it in real life. Carter has. When those big layoffs were looming, she had a message for the employees who were likely to be affected: “For those who don’t want to be be laid off, before we do a layoff, who’s willing to take a 10 to 15 percent cut across the board? And here’s why. We screwed up, and this is how much money we’re losing.”

That’s known in business parlance – actually, it’s known everywhere except Washington – as facing up to reality. I’ve run a business that was bleeding cash and had to be radically reconfigured. If you want to survive, you have no choice. Congress hasn’t quite figured that out yet.

Of course, it’s easy to say you’re going to do something, especially when you would only be one of 535 legislators involved in the process. I asked Carter how a prospective new GOP majority would have to actually approach the challenge. She had a plan for that, too.

It would start, she said, by rooting out what she believes is $150 billion worth of waste in the system. It seems to me that the pursuit of “waste” in government spending is a perpetual and quixotic exercise, which is why I was finding the opening part of her answer underwhelming.

But Carter was just getting started. This, she said, was to set the stage for the more impactful steps that would necessarily involve developing an entirely new formula for who would get entitlement benefits, and how much each recipient could receive. An obviously necessary change – hard for politicians to get out of their mouths but undeniable – is raising the eligibility age for Social Security. Carter minces no words there, and she takes the additional step of making the case for why it’s a perfectly reasonable proposition.

“The Social Security system was written years ago when people’s life expectancies were not what they are today,” Carter said. “I know that sounds awful, but unfortunately that is the un-politically correct fact that we have to face as a country.”

Carter’s vision is not only one of austerity, though. She emphasizes the need for the federal government to get out of the way of corporate America so it can do what it does best, which is to create wealth. Cutting the 40 percent corporate tax and getting rid of ridiculous regulations are simple steps Washington could take if it was really serious about economic growth, she says.

She is no fan, by the way, of Obama Administration proposals to offer tax credits for new hires, particularly for hires of people who have been unemployed more than six months.

Why? Consider: Carter has been involved in the running of enough businesses that she understands you don’t hire people to get a tax credit. You hire them because they can do things that will make you more profitable. And by the way, that person who’s been out of work six months just might not be the best hire you can make, as most personnel directors will tell you. The way to create wealth is to hire the best people for the job and turn them loose producing.

Come to think of it, when it comes to creating wealth, Carter knows a few things about that from a personal level as well. The youngest of 10 children – the last born before her birth father abandoned the family – Carter describes her circumstance growing up as “dirt poor,” which might explain why she doesn’t flinch at the notion of sacrifice.

Now, when it comes to the 800-pound policy gorilla in the room, Carter is on board with the idea that ObamaCare needs to be completely repealed – along with new reforms to replace it so the health care system really is improved, using market principles instead of heavy-handed central government planning.

At the same time, Carter is realistic enough to know that a total repeal will be almost impossible politically during the next session of Congress – if nothing else, an Obama veto would stand in its way – so she said Congress has to be prepared to starve it of funding. There, she is a little vague, invoking “special interests” that she says the GOP will cut off.

Carter is clearly much more a businesswoman than a politician, but there are times she she slips into political talking-point speak, and several references to dastardly “special interests” are among the leading examples.

Still: The basic problem in Washington is that no one there seems prepared to deal with the kind of fiscal realities that businesses need to either face or die (unless they are General Motors, but let’s not get started . . . ). As well, few in Washington seem willing to go before the voters and say, look, here’s how it is. We have to deal with it.

Carter thinks that was the problem with the failed Republican Congress that accomplished so little between 1994 and 2006, leaving the vacuum that the current Democratic majority has been filling with policy ideas that practically come straight out of the Communist Manifesto. (That last part was me talking, by the way, not Liz.)

Her assessment of the old GOP crew, some of whom would be her colleagues if she manages to make it across the finish line, is not charitable.

“I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this, but I don’t care,” Carter said. “They got prideful and thought that they would keep the House, so they weren’t working on the issues that they should have been working on. It was more, ‘Hey, we’ve got the House. We can do what we want. We’ll delay the hard work. It’s not gonna be popular. We might lose our seats.’ So they took the approach of ‘Let’s keep everybody moderately happy so we’ll win the election,’ and it backfired. Now we have even more spending, and extreme spending, and in a way it serves us right. And we have to elect officials who say, ‘I don’t care about party lines. I care about the American people, and I’m gonna stand up to fight and make sure we address the hard issues, instead of saying, ‘Well, we have a war going on. We can’t focus on anything else.’ We have to focus on everything else.”

Yep. We could elect people like that. Or we could send back the guy who thinks Guam is going to capsize. Georgia’s 4th congressional district, how about it?