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by Arne Sorenson, President & CEO of Marriott International

Marriott International’s headquarters is just a few miles north of America’s Capitol, the epicenter of the profoundly disappointing federal government shutdown and a looming confrontation on the debt ceiling. The impacts ripple well beyond Washington, D.C. and past U.S. borders. Others from around the world are watching this circus, which is embarrassing at best. Just like in each of the last few years, we are confronted with a failure of our political leadership that threatens an economy that wants to turn the corner to higher growth and employment.

With the major attractions of the city and government offices closed, tourism and business travel to D.C. is declining. Visitors applying for visas to come to the United States for business or pleasure will likely see delays. The E-Verify system, which verifies the work eligibility of employees, has been pulled down, leaving employers without a key resource when trying to be sure that a job offer can be extended. These are just a few of the many consequences of this shutdown. Each of the furloughed federal employees has his or her own much more personal story. And it will get worse with each passing day and especially if the debt ceiling wall on or about October 17 is also left unresolved.

We all know what our politicians should be doing – passing funding measures to get the government running again, passing a regular budget (we haven’t had one for years), developing a more thoughtful approach to deficit reduction than the sequester, and agreeing on a path to responsibly raise the debt limit. But they aren’t doing it. From a distance, it doesn’t look like they are really even trying. Without an apparent spirit of compromise and collaboration, it is hard to have hope in the near term, let alone for action on other important issues like immigration, tax and entitlement reform. It looks to me like our political leadership is committed to their parties, their positions of power, maybe even the news cycle, but not to solving the political issues that need to be solved.

If ever there is a time for true leadership, it is now. What concerns me is there doesn’t seem to be much incentive to change course. What will motivate our leaders to leave politics aside and get back to sound policymaking? I can’t help but think that our political leaders and their party organizations are hurting this situation by pushing their members to take positions that are too extreme and creating an environment that precludes compromise.

It makes me wonder whether we shouldn’t all decide to swear off political contributions to any party or party controlled entity. I wonder too whether we should swear off political contributions to those in the House or Senate who have “perfect” or near perfect scores from those conservative or liberal groups that are assessing adherence to either party line. Can we collectively shift the money that is in the political process to politicians who are practical and who are not above doing the work of politics to reach practical solutions especially in the areas where political philosophies conflict?

I don’t know what the right answer is, but I’d love to know what you think about how we can take our government back and ensure that those sitting in political leadership roles are truly doing the work of the people.

As posted:

About Arne Sorenson, President & CEO of Marriott International

Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson shares his personal thoughts about the federal government shutdown and the impact it has well beyond Washington, D.C. and past the U.S. borders.  Check out his LinkedIn blog and see what he has to say. 

Contact: Marriott Intl. / (301) 380-7770

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