John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The American Action Forum

Posted on February 23, 2010
About eight months ago, a few friends of mine and I met with Doug Holtz-Eakin, the former Director of the Congressional Budget Office, to plot out a strategy to create a center-right think tank.

We all felt that there was a desperate need to find the next new ideas that would help move this country forward for the next forty years.

From my own personal point of view, I was pretty frustrated that the current policy debate was devoid of any thing new.  Everybody on the right was pining for the next Ronald Reagan, or worse, were pretending that they were the next Ronald Reagan.

I love Ronald Reagan, but when Reagan formulated some of his ideas, he wasn’t look to be the next Franklin Roosevelt.  He wasn’t looking to the past.  He was looking to the future.

We wanted to have both a think tank and an advocacy piece that could take the ideas to the country and to the candidates.  We soon heard that former Senator Norm Coleman and famed businessman Fred Malek were thinking the same thing, and we decided to join forces.

Yesterday, the American Action Network and the American Action Forum had its opening press conference.   Today, the American Action Network went right to work.   It had its first forum with the appropriate title, “How to Create Jobs?”

Fred Malek introduced the governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, who gave the keynote address.  For McDonnell, his focus on the jobs issues helped him win the election, and his strategies for creating jobs, if they are successful, may propel him to the White House.  He was a good choice to start the conference.  Norm Coleman gave a great speech about the political realities that face this country.

Holtz-Eakin moderated a discussion with two panels, both with bipartisan representation.  The first panel, which was more economist in approach, included Jared Bernstein, the smartest policy person in the White House, who gave a spirited (if unconvincing to me) defense of the stimulus plan.  It also included two more conservative economics experts, who debunked the Bernstein presentation.   Jared had to leave right after his talk to meet with the Vice President, so he wasn’t there to defend himself.

The second panel had representatives from the National Federation of Independent Business, the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce.  Interestingly, despite the fact that these were all senior people in their organizations, the labor and business reps had never met before and had never served on the same panel before.  That could explain why most people think Washington is broken.

This forum was a great start to what I hope will be an ongoing discussion about the future of jobs, our economy, and our country.

Because of time constraints, the panelists didn’t have time to discuss what the future will likely look like for most American workers and what steps the government could take to make that American worker succeed.  The fact of the matter is that we don’t need as many people to manufacture stuff or to produce food, or even to make music.  So, we should invest in people’s creativity, because ultimately, creativity will be the next big thing.

I think we should focus on giving consumers more power to achieve their own dreams.  We should make health care more portable.  We should give folks more power over their retirements.  We should clear away all of the crazy regulations so that small business owners don’t get strangled by the myriad of taxes and work rules that come from the state, local and federal level.

The fact of the matter is that we don’t know what the future is for the American workforce.  But we do know that things are changing and they are changing quickly and that not all of the changes are a bad thing.

I am glad that the American Action Forum is around because I think this is one of the few places in Washington that the left and right can have a grown-up discussion about the future.

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