Friday, October 31, 2008

Tony Batman's Open Letter to Senator Obama

Today, RealClearMarkets published an open letter from Tony Batman, the CEO of the financial services firm 1st Global, to Senator Obama ("A Letter to Senator Obama"). About seven years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Tony Batman, though I doubt he remembers me. I worked for a start-up that was one of two finalists competing for a contract with his company, and I went to 1st Global's headquarters in Dallas to make our pitch. If memory serves, the other guy won the contract. One thing I remember about Tony was that he had more professional designations listed on his business card than anyone I had ever met. He mentions in his letter that he is a CPA, but as I recall he also holds a CFA, a CFP, and a few other designations.

Batman's letter is, among other things, an impassioned defense of the role business owners play in our economy, and a rant against class warfare and collectivism. Batman also explicates the role his Catholic faith has in his worldview, and throws in an allusion to Atlas Shrugged for good measure. Below are two brief excerpts:

I am a product of public schools, local community college, and state university. I am only marginally educated beyond my intelligence. I was taught to think rigorously.

No job was ever beneath my dignity. I did farm work, drove a tractor to plow fields, operated a combine to harvest summer wheat, cut and stacked hay, navigated a Sunday morning newspaper route, was a fry cook at Kentucky Fried Chicken, cutter in a beef packing plant, roughneck on a drilling rig, night clerk at a liquor store, a bouncer at a discotheque, and I even trapped and killed gophers on a golf course. Yep, I was the original Carl Spackler in “Caddyshack.”

My parents never financially helped me because they could not, despite their desires to do so. They did the best they could in life and they would not have ever considered asking for a handout from anybody. I would never change one thing about my upbringing.


My wife and I started our company in 1992 with an $88,000 investment from our savings, a few untapped credit cards, a month-to-month rental on an executive suite, no customers and no employees. All we had was a dream, the willingness to work very hard and to honor the promises we made to people.

We lived frugally and saved money which allowed us to have options and choices in life like starting a business. For the first thirteen years of marriage, we lived in a 1,200 square foot home with our two young sons with mortgage payments of only $650/month. Frugality ruled the day and it still rules.

For two years after the start of the business, I drew less than a $30,000 salary, living mostly on additional savings. For the ensuing five years, I drew a salary substantially below my market value just to make the business work. This is the price a working class business owner pays for happiness.

Sixteen years later, we have a national payroll of over $125 million and the pride we feel is for the creation of so many good jobs and the opportunity to serve those we love.

A life centered on high and unchanging values is central to the life of a working class business owner. For me, the virtue of personal responsibility is so important that I will not even give a permanent job to my sons. They cannot even apply for a job at my company. They are not entitled to one from me. I love them and I only owe them a good education and an education in those life values essential to their personal joy, significance and meaning. They will be better and happier men for it.

You may not agree with all of what Tony writes, but perhaps you will find it worth reading, as I did.


Tom Grey said...

My guess is that Tony will not "go John Galt".

It would be good if you tried to do a post on your views of Reg T -- I've seen your comments on Megan's site and liked them. Also like your blog.

(I'm a bit burned out on mine.)

Tony's righteous passion is well said:
"Let me tell you, Senator Obama, there is no better show of compassion for humankind than starting a business and making it prosper. You don’t seem to appreciate how hard this is to do having never attempted it yourself."

I actually believe the Church has failed the Free Market -- by not recognizing it as the Peaceful, Voluntary Market. And rather supporting a Robin Hood force-based gov't redistribution system on top of the market.

DaveinHackensack said...

Thanks, Tom. I'll try to do a post on Reg T soon.

I agree that Tony probably won't go on strike, but I do wonder if he (and similarly minded business owners) might not slow down a bit, depending on what policies are enacted. I also doubt Tony will take his talents to a country like Russia, and risk the Khodorkovsky treatment.

Regarding the Catholic Church, I'm no expert, but it has definitely had some leftist influences in recent decades (e.g., Liberation Theology). Many Evangelical Protestant churches, on the other hand, have had more positive attitudes toward free market capitalism.

Mr. Big said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Evan said...

"working class business owner "

By definition, a working class person is not a business owner. A small business owner is a petit bourgeois, where a working class person is only sells his labour.