Two-Thirds of Accountants Want An Accountant President
Finance professionals would prefer to vote an accountant for president. Here’s why they think accounting’s skill set would translate well to the Oval Office.
In the history of the United States, 45 people have served in the office of President. Prior to taking the oath of office, 26 of them—58%—were lawyers. Twenty-two have had military experience, including nine generals. US presidents have been former farmers, actors, academics, teachers, surveyors, and doctors.
Number of accountants: zero.
Given that the Executive branch spends about $4 trillion a year, you’d think some accountancy at the top would be a good thing. And yet, despite more than twenty contenders having already entered the race for 2020, none of them claim accounting as their primary background.
So to find out what the presidency of an accountant would look like, we decided to ask you.
Two weeks ago, we surveyed the Abacus community of finance and accounting professionals on how they felt an accountant would perform as the President of the United States. Their replies revealed a general confidence that the profession’s training and mindset would translate well to leading the nation.
An accountant would fare better on economic issues.
While our respondents felt an accountant president (APOTUS) would slightly outperform their predecessors overall, the real hope was that the individual’s knowledge on economic and fiscal issues would outclass the typical president.
In the real world, people trained in finance or economics tend to get elected when their government has an economic mess to clean up. These leaders, known as “technocrats” for their technical approach to governing, stand in contrast to more traditional politicians, who usually trade on rhetoric, charisma, and other soft skills. It would be interesting to gauge the degree to which our survey respondents imagined their hypothetical APOTUS to be a technocrat, as opposed to, say, a charming populist who happened to be a CPA.
The accounting skills a president needs most
The most important accounting-related skill the APOTUS brings to the table is financial literacy. Beyond that, the respondents identified the importance of forward planning: risk reduction, analysis, budgeting, forecasting.
This result arguably revealed what accountants believe to be the true nature of their jobs. Sure, making sure past behavior lines up is important—think month-end close, audit preparation, and so on—but the respondents actually viewed their jobs as much closer aligned with the forward-looking role of a leader.
Just look at some of the most POTUS-relevant accounting skills they wrote in:
- Forecasting skills and the ability to see long-term implications of spending more than you have
- Opportunity costs – every dollar spent on one program directly takes away from spending on another
- Long term financial consequences of a decision in the near term
- Negotiating skills
The agenda of an accountant president
The survey invited respondents to imagine the platform and policies of an APOTUS—and, critically, whether they would support it. The consensus, not surprisingly, was fiscal responsibility. Here were some of the responses:
“Choosing to spend money where the greatest return on investment would be. If I give you X, what do I get in return? I would support this type of spending policy. I don’t mind paying taxes. I just want something in return, i.e. less crime, cleaner roadways, better healthcare.”
“Rein in spending, specifically on entitlements. They are larger and growing faster than any other type of government spending. National debt is a ticking time bomb, and there’s no amount of taxation that will offset the current rate of government spending.”
“Reform government pension system to a 401k model. Elected official commits a crime, no more health insurance and forgoes pension. Term limit 8 years. The cost of any new law must be cost neutral during the term of the president—none of this 10-year horizon. Specific taxes must be used for the same purpose. Washington, DC must have representation. Get an immigration policy in place.”
“Understanding financial management from a business context (and not viewing the country as a business the way our current president does) could seriously help our country.”
Accounting campaign slogans
We invited our audience to submit any slogans they might hear during the campaign of an aspiring APOTUS. Some seemed promising:
- There’s More to the Middle Than Either Extreme
- Eliminate The Debt
- A Return To Fiscal Sanity
- Let America Become Prosperous and Profitable
- Accountability Assured
Two-thirds would prefer an accountant president
Finally, our audience of finance professionals—over half of which were CFOs, Controllers, or VPs—did overall report a preference for a president that knows how to balance the books. Or, more to the point, knows how to link the fiscal position of today with the desired outcomes of the future.