You've seen them on every Prius, most Subarus, and maybe even the occasional F-150 — those bumper stickers that simply say "1/20/09." The original intent was to commemorate, in advance, the end of the Bush Presidency. But as the election draws close, those peeling, sun-faded public displays of frustration (or worse) suddenly herald not an ending but a beginning. On 1/20/09, a new President will take office. Based on a careful reading of more recently adorned bumpers, the choice is between Change and Change.
We don't yet know, of course, whether it will be major change or spare change, but if the status quo is up for reconsideration, then it's only fair that citizens be heard.
Toward that end, we surveyed nearly 400 senior finance executives, asking them not only whom they plan to vote for and what issues matter most to them, but what advice they'd give the next President. Some offered surprisingly detailed policy prescriptions, while others were succinct to an unprintable fault. Most left no doubt as to where they stand, although a few, we confess, were baffling. ("Do no harm. Drill drill drill" is one we're still puzzling over. A Yukon-driving doctor?) We were struck by the passion with which CFOs offered their views; senior writer Kate O'Sullivan captures a fair and balanced sample in "Dear Mr. President."
No one, to my knowledge, has seen fit to merchandise anything bearing the date 9/14/08, but it has now earned a certain infamy, not only for the actual events that transpired (Lehman Brothers bankrupt, Merrill Lynch acquired, AIG teetering) but for pulling off the neat trick of making Wall Street the lead story of the day — on a Sunday. Given the tumult, our Banking & Finance special section should prove particularly useful. (See "Now What?" "The Champ Feels Some Heat," "Battered But Not Broken," and "Back to the Drawing Board.")
If you need a break from macro events, "Adult Education" makes a compelling case as to why companies need to explain the benefits they provide to employees more carefully. Admittedly, "Know Your Benefits" does not make for a catchy bumper sticker; this may be that rare case in which everyone should become a bit of a wonk.