Tuesday, February 03, 2009

FedEx CEO Fred Smith

The Democrats in Washington are helping all of us see, once again, why we are Republicans. The ridiculous pork-laden, welfare, spending bill they are trying to pass as "stimulus" is a reminder of what we ought to be about as a party.

But, I was reminded about why I am a Republican over the weekend as I watched "This Week with George Stephanapolous." Guests on the show that day included Rep. Barney Frank and a CEO named Frederick Smith, the founder and head of FedEx.

I have always been relatively amused by Barney Frank. Frank is a witty, highly intelligent, radical liberal from Massachusetts. He is considered one of Washington's smartest men and he is quietly respected among many Republicans in Washington because of his intellect. I do not cringe at the sight of the liberal Barney Frank like many of my GOP colleagues. He is part of what makes politics interesting and even though I abhor 99% of what he supports, I'll admit to not hating him. There is a famous news clip of Rep. Barney Frank where he says "there are plenty of rich people to tax." See that clip by clicking here. That attitude was obvious on Sunday during "This Week."

The man that caught my attention on the show was the very unassuming, almost boring-looking, grey haired, soft spoken CEO of FedEx, Fred Smith. I was surprised that this man--boring as he looked--was a CEO. I was impressed by how ordinary the man looked, but how extraordinary his thoughts were. So, I started doing some digging.

Frederick Smith lost his father when he was only 4 years old. Mr. Smith graduated high school in Memphis, TN and went on to Yale. At Yale, he wrote a paper for an economics class outlining overnight delivery service in the computer age--in 1966. Upon graduation, he served two tours in Vietnam as a Marine. He returned to the United States and in June of 1971, using a small inheritance, founded a small company called "Federal Express." By 1973, his company was providing overnight delivery service of small packages and documents to 25 U.S. cities using 14 small jets. Mr. Smith used the innovative idea of a "ground clearing system" whereby packages were shipped using a central clearing location. This system was never used before and it transformed the shipping business and is now used by every major shipping business in the world. Mr. Smith is a visionary business pioneer.

Today, 38 years after the founding of Federal Express, Mr. Smith's small upstart company is called FedEx and its many units and subsidiaries are household names. FedEx employs over 250,000 people worldwide and the company is valued at more than $25 billion! All of this from a man who wrote a paper at Yale and built his American dream.

On that Sunday morning show, I watched the contrast between two very smart men--Rep. Barney Frank and CEO Frederick Smith. Rep. Frank was respectful of Mr. Smith and it was not a "fight" between the two. But, watching Barney Frank lecture viewers using the phrase "corporate elite" and then listening to his view of America (one we all know well) reminded me about why I am a Republican. We are the party that supports private enterprise and rewards success in the free market. They are the party that taxes success. The contrast between CEO Fred Smith (creator of 250,000 jobs) and Rep. Barney Frank (tax the successful who create jobs) could not have been more clear.

Critics will say, "Sure, you are the party that supports CEO fat cats?" Not even close. And, that oversimplification misses the point entirely. We should be the party that supports business growth and development as a method of lifting up all people and giving them a chance at the American dream. America ought to be a place where Mr. Smith's success is celebrated and encouraged--not scorned. FedEx operates in 220 nations and employs a quarter-of-a-million people. Mr. Smith's intelligence, vision, hard-work, and entrepreneurial spirit helped employ thousands and ultimately helped countless families raise their kids and live a better life.

President Obama campaigned on the notion that "those that make $250,000 per year or more will have their taxes raised." That is exactly the wrong message despite the results on Election Day. America ought to be a place where every single person strives to make that much money every year. Instead, Democrats tell us that if we do, we'll be punished by the government when they keep more of our money. That kind of class warfare kills innovation, discourages hard work, and hurts job growth in the economy.

We are the party that celebrates and lifts up success. They tax it.