There is an old saying in Washington: where you stand depends on where you sit.

For those sitting in the White House and those seeking those seats, the competing messages are set: he made it worse versus he kept it from being even worse. What’s next?


The Republican pathway emphasises growth. The prescriptions are familiar: reduce regulation, reform and reduce business taxation; educate and re-train the workforce; open markets abroad; and make government smarter. The president’s private sector advisers also endorsed these actions.

Perhaps since economic growth has been so slow, the Democratic message seeks to change the subject, reprising a populist theme of redistributing what growth there is – to share the wealth. 

The Democrats will also employ pro-growth sound bytes, but they may be reminded that their actions do not support their narrative. Petrol prices have doubled during the past three years, and while White House speeches champion domestic energy production, New Orleans publishes regular progress reports pointing to slow approval rates for oil drilling permits in the Gulf and the new oil pipeline from Canada – studied for three years – has been deferred for additional study. The White House had an initiative to eliminate 'burdensome' regulations, but business watchdog groups point to an accelerated rate of costly rule making. And, past efforts to protect the 'carried interest' tax treatment as a capital gain (the source of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s 15% tax bracket) were largely led by a leading Democrat senator, seeking campaign funds from private equity executives.

Some months ago, a shout of “you lie” breached the etiquette for a presidential appearance before a joint session of Congress, but Mein Kampf introduced the power of the 'Big Lie' many years ago. White House staffers who sit at the Roosevelt Room conference table sincerely believe that what they stand for is not a big lie; executives who sit at business conference tables may find that element of sincerity the most troubling of all.

Daniel Malachuk works with business and government leaders on global direct investment strategies. He has advised many of the world's leading companies and served in the US public sector as director of White House operations. E-mail: