Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Restaurateurs for Obama?

When Chris Matthews took the stage at MUFSO, he jokingly asked, “Any Republicans in the room?” Even outsiders know the industry of inclusion is a lot more single-minded when it comes to politics. But clearly a few Obamanacs have snuck under the tent, and the number will likely grow as the recovery plans issued this week by the presidential candidates are digested by the industry. At least on paper, Barack Obama seems to have the better prescription for a wheezing restaurant business.

For one thing, he’s proposing that employers be given a $3,000 tax credit for each full-time employee they hire over a two-year stretch. Repeatedly during MUFSO, executives cited a need for talent at all levels of their organizations as Priority No. 1. Couple that with all the people who are being displaced from their jobs by the economic meltdown, mix in the Democratic sweetener to hire, and you’ll likely have a lot of pleased restaurateurs.

What’s more, Obama’s plan would eliminate capital gains taxes on investments in small businesses. That provision could be a stout wrench in re-opening a rusted-shut capital pipeline.

That could get enough credit flowing for restaurants to makeover their current restaurants and even build some new ones. If they do, Obama’s plan would grant them a $250,000 write-off on the investments through 2009.

Ironically, John McCain’s plan is far more focused on consumers than Obama’s business-centric proposal. The Arizona senator wants to ease the plight of restaurants’ customer pool by allowing people to tap their retirement accounts now without paying an income tax rate that sounds as if it was a vig set by Louie the Horse. Up to $50,000 could be withdrawn during the first two years at a rate of just 10 percent.

The Republican also proposed that the capital gains taxes on stocks and other investments held for a long time be cut in half, to 7.5 percent. That, too, could help consumers enhance their liquidity, as the financial types say.

But other provisions of the plan are designed to encourage saving, not spending. This is just a guess, but restaurateurs probably don’t want at this point to see consumers socking away more dollars that might otherwise go into their tills.

Is it any wonder that some industry executives are openly voicing sympathy for the Democratic candidate—correction: for Barack Obama—as the election approaches?

“I’m a registered Republican,” said Phil Hickey, an unrepentant capitalist who, by the best of our recollection, made upwards of $30 million when he sold the company he led, Rare Hospitality, to Darden Restaurants in a multi-billion-dollar deal last year. “My family’s maxxed out on the Ed Tinsley campaign (a push to turn restaurateur and National Restaurant Association director Tinsley into a Republican Congressman from New Mexico). I’ve sent (industry lobbyist and leftists’ scourge) Rick Berman almost a million dollars in checks over the last 10 years.”

Yet, Hickey stressed from the stage at MUFSO, he’s pushing for Obama on Nov. 4. Indeed, Phil agreed to serve as the Democrat’s proxy in a debate NRN staged during MUFSO (Doug Ducey, the former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery and an Arizona resident, served as the main advocate for McCain.) In normal times, arguing for the policies of a Democrat is akin to wearing pork chop cufflinks during a visit to an attack dog school.

As Hickey noted, the country has had eight years under a Republican Administration, “which was voted for by most of us. Let me ask you, how are things today? How’s your business? How’s that working for you?”

It’s now a cliché to term the industry’s economic plight a perfect storm. Regardless of whether or not you agree with Hickey’s choice for president, you have to agree that his question merits asking. Voting for a Republican in knee-jerk fashion just doesn’t make any sense during times like these.


  1. Your first mistake is believing anything Obama says is the truth or if he has any intention of really doing anything he says. As for the the $3,000 an employee tax credit. He will make that up by increasing the capital gains tax on small business owners. Riddle me this,Peter: Is a $3,000 per employee tax a real break if you have to fire employees and the capital gains tax increases? Add, the socialized health care program costs, along with no more secret ballot for unions along with rchanges in the right to work law changes. As for Chris Matthews, I can't believe MUFSO would invite such partisan idiot to speak. What happened, Was Keith Olbermann not available?
    If NObama gets elected, expect the stock market to take a plunge that will make the last month look like a picnic.
    Also, Obama plans to only increase taxes on $250,000 and above. How far does $250,000 a household go in NYC, or Boston or anywhere in Northeast. DO you think any of those families think they are rich?

    As for his experience, answer me this? Would NRN hire a College Freshman in Journalism to run NRN?

    So whats the difference?

    Anyone who thinks this guy pro-business is insane.



  2. Gez Steakman. Have you been living under a rock for the past 8 years? Do you REALLY want the John and Sarah show solving all the problems we have inherited form 8 years of Bush? Are among the 23% of American's that think Bush is doing a good job?

    I am a republican but have zero interest in voting along party lines. This is a country first statement. Here is the one will ever be ready or fully prepared to assume the role of President.

    On taxes. Steakman, dude. Think wealth creation. If you are making $250,000 a year and don't have assets and a plan to create wealth, then taxes aren't your biggest problem.

    However, I am concerned about making it easier to organize labor with the proposed card-check program. Obama is pro labor and that does give me pause.

  3. Steakman and Michael, Riddle me this why is are the wealthy and corporations the OBAMA rescue package. If we are all in this together, shouldn't everyone be in it regardless of tax bracket. And on taxes dude, what's up with the spreading of the wealth and the socialism of medicine. Can we make the hard choices of not saving 84 year old grandma or on the other end of the spectrum the child that will never see its way off life support. Sorry to be direct. But these are times for directness and get in the game Steakman you may not like him but Matthews is watched by millions of voters!