The Homeless Affluent

April 25, 2019

By Matthew Groves, House District 6 Co-chair

In the military, the budget is separated into three major pots to represent the lifecycle of weaponry. Research & Development dreams the future of warfare and brings it to life. Acquisitions buys our new toys and prepares for battle. Operations & Maintenance is the dusty old sergeant patching bullet holes in the tanks so we can fight again tomorrow.

During war, money is plentiful – every pot is full. But, once the American flag is raised, the public expects a ‘peace dividend.’ A boost to the economy, due to less military spending and a returning workforce. In those times, defense dollars are tight. Leaders often hone spending on new acquisitions, not maintaining the battle-proven, sometimes rusted, workhorses. When we fail to maintain, we create a hollow force.

Assembling a voting base is no different.

With limited resources, we build and maintain coalitions, while strategically determining when to pursue new demographics. Younger voters, moderate voters, first-time voters relish the attention and elicit expensive promises from candidates that strain their longevity when they prove unworkable.

Meanwhile, the Base is an alliance forged in principle, battle-tested through decades of partisan conflict. It is generally reliable – no matter how badly we fail to maintain it between elections. But, every so often, we are forced to pay a price for our negligence. Those consequences are often fatal. (see: 1932, 1992)

With some exception, we typically think of fiscally-conservative business owners as solidly in the Republican base. For years, local Chambers of Commerce has been a gathering table for entrepreneurs from all backgrounds as they achieve upward economic mobility. But, if you have been around this table recently, you have probably noticed a trend. It’s not that members are getting older (spoiler alert: they are), it’s that they represent the same industries they did 20 years ago.

The rising stars of cutting-edge industries (tech, bioscience, big data) aren’t migrating Republican over our shared love of lower taxes and labor concerns. And while Republican presence looms large over traditional stomping grounds like the National Prayer Breakfast and NRA Shot Show, no one is there to meet the next generation at Google NEXT, CES, or the AWS Global Summit. In fact, unless you’re in tech, I’d venture you don’t know what those are. This is illustrative of our failure in the maintenance division.

This week’s article is entitled: The Affluent Homeless. Coming from our favorite tax-payer sponsored news outlet (hold for laugh), it reflects the differences between us and the next generation (of what should be us). Today, this is a very small portion of what I believe is a natural Republican contingent. But, it is growing. Alone. And their allegiance is weakening.

They won’t be overly concerned with things like property or estate taxes. We often can’t even find them to get them to vote. But, they are exemplary about living within their means and fiscal responsibility to claw themselves out of debt. It is the exact opposite of how we frequently caste their generation.

If we are going to properly maintain this neglected niche of business owners, we must set aside the fact that they don’t look like we thought they would and tweak our message to appeal to them. The next generation will pursue social good with the same fervor that they pursue wealth (thanks college!). The old tag line of “keeping your hard-earned money” may not get them out of bed, as they don’t seem to regard it in the same way we have.

But, what we continue to have in common is self-determination, independence, and the notion that a little sacrifice now can secure a better future tomorrow. No matter what ‘better’ means to them. These men and women are building our future society, company by company, and perhaps hostel by hostel. And they’re building it on the same foundation that you all did 20-30 years ago. Bear in mind, the top tech companies in the world (Google, Amazon, Microsoft) were founded in garages.

Many business leaders today are reluctant to be politically vocal because of liberal consumer backlash. Still, we need to remind them that we represent the same thing, lest tomorrows’ silent majority become a silent minority.