The long and bruising 2012 presidential election is now behind us, and Americans can get back to the business of recovery -- from recession, persistent joblessness and natural disasters. The election may be over, but the challenges remain.
The business community has no shortage of people willing to offer their diagnoses for what ails the country, and suggestions for the cure. CNBC.com presents some of the world's biggest business leaders, who give prescriptions that they'd like to see implemented.
Read ahead for their advice for America.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 8 November 2012
The Vanguard Group is an investment management company founded in 1975 by John C. Bogle and valued at $1.7 million, according to its website. Bogle said that dealing with the "fiscal cliff" must be the government's highest priority.
"The idea of a 'grand' deal is now a necessity," suggesting a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. "We are living in a different kind of America than we had in the past," he said. "I'm sure the founding fathers were pretty tough on each other, but they gave in for the greater good."
Virgin Group founder and chairman Richard Branson is not American, but his track record as a successful businessman suggests that he may have worthwhile ideas about invigorating an economy. In an October interview on NPR, he discussed his positive experience with the partial privatization of a government-run entity.
"I used to travel on Britain's rail network, and the rail was run down, dilapidated, run by government; and we went in and persuaded them to give a chunk of it to us," he said. "And you know, we absolutely transformed it from 8 million passengers a year to, you know, 33 million passengers a year."
Sergey Brin is the co-founder of Google, one of the Internet's most profitable companies. He sees partisanship as the most toxic force in government, according to a statement he made on Election Day on his public blog.
"Our government will still be a giant bonfire of partisanship," he said. "So my plea to the victors -- whoever they might be: please withdraw from your respective parties and govern as independents in name and in spirit. It is probably the biggest contribution you can make to the country."
During the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett said he knew to "end the deficit in five minutes."
"You just pass a law that says that any time there's a deficit of more than 3 percent of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election," he said. "Yeah, yeah, now you've got the incentives in the right place, right?"
A professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, Clayton M. Christensen knows a thing or two about innovation. Just before Election Day, he wrote an article that appeared in The New York Times called "A Capitalist's Dilemma, Whoever Wins on Tuesday." It addressed the three kinds of innovation he believes will be necessary to reviving the economy.
"I'll call the first type 'empowering' innovations," he said. "These transform complicated and costly products available to a few into simpler, cheaper products available to the many. The Ford Model T was an empowering innovation, as was the Sony transistor radio."
"The second type are 'sustaining' innovations," he said. "These replace old products with new models. For example, the Toyota Prius hybrid is a marvelous product."
"The third type are 'efficiency' innovations," he said. "These reduce the cost of making and distributing existing products and services. Examples are minimills in steel and Geico in online insurance underwriting."
The Corcoran Group is a New York real estate company founded in 1973 by Barbara Corcoran. According to The New York Times, she sold the firm to NRT for about $70 million in 2001, but she never slowed down, and in addition to her work as an investor and public speaker, she also appears on both NBC's "Today" show and the ABC reality show "Shark Tank."
Corcoran is troubled by the current state of housing, and doesn't mind the idea of pressuring the financial community into getting more involved. "Somebody has to force the banks to refinance the underwater mortgages,"
Ron Florance is the managing director of investment strategy at Wells Fargo Private Bank. He's straightforward in giving his opinion of what to expect in a second Obama term.
"We believe taxes are going to go up," He also advised taking action on the estate tax immediately.
"You have six weeks to get this done," he said. "The estate taxes will not be this favorable for the rest of our natural lives. So for clients in that bracket, this is a pretty critical six weeks."
Jim Rogers is chairman of Rogers Holdings. He co-founded the Quantum Fund in 1973 with George Soros, and described the monetary policies of President Barack Obama's first term as He outlined what he would do to prepare for the next four years.
"Today I'm going to short more bonds, more U.S. government bonds," he said. "I'm going to buy more commodities, both base metals and precious metals. It looks to me like money printing is going to run amok now, spending is going to run amok."