By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital
January 19, 2003
An open letter to our new governor:
Dear Governor Bredesen,
So far, so good. In your first 24 hours in office, you've broken no
campaign pledges, you haven't pardoned any murderers and your PR from Saturday
was positive. You haven't adjusted any tax collection forecasts. No
one from either political party has called for you resign. John J. Hooker
didn't even criticize you yesterday. It doesn't get much easier than
Whether or not it gets any better than this depends on a lot of different
factors. Some you can control; others you cannot. You're a smart
guy, so I suspect you will mostly worry about the things you can control.
Please remember the proper role of government. Government never created
a nickel of wealth. All it can do is reallocate resources created by the
private sector. The power to tax is the power to destroy. Propose the use
of that power carefully - and sparingly.
In your first day, it seems you've done more bridge building than
burning. Keep it up. Of course, you haven't approached many bridges
yet, either. Don't pit one group of citizens against another just to get
your way on an issue. Class warfare may be effective in politics, but it
makes for very, very bad economics.
Manage the state's balance sheet, not just the income statement. Most
of our family fights in the last four years were about the income statement, but
we ignored our balance sheet. You know exactly what I mean when I write
Have fun. And let us see it. Don't just create photo-ops.
You're a rich guy and most of us want to think rich people always enjoy life,
even if they often don't. Give us something to shoot for.
Fix TennCare. I'm not sure what that means, but everybody says it needs
to be done. When a quarter of the state's budget is spent providing
medical insurance for a quarter of the state's residents - and the medical
community still isn't getting paid for their services - something is
Don't create any new "recipient constituencies." That's what we did
when we created TennCare and now people expect to receive state provided medical
insurance. Putting toothpaste back into the tube is tough for anybody;
it's impossible for an elected body.
Be careful with the lottery. A majority of Tennesseans supported
it. Please don't let its implementation or the use of its net proceeds
create divisions where none previously existed.
During your campaign, you noted that most Tennesseans - regardless of
political affiliation - agree about a lot of things. I might favor school
vouchers and you might prefer to increase teacher salaries. But we both
agree that our school buildings shouldn't leak and all of our students need
proper textbooks. Don't let political gamesmanship push you to the
philosophical extremes at the expense of the areas we all agree we have core
But when you are strongly moved to adopt a controversial position, think it
through clearly. Ask advice from smart liberals and conservatives, make up
your mind - then do it. Lead. That would be nice change for
Tennessee, I think.
I hope you have great success. You are off to a fantastic start.
Let's see what happens on Day Two.
David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a
Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article
originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).