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Last Sunday, Trek Bicycles president John Burke published the inaugural address he wanted to see President Donald Trump deliver. The address is short on bombast and long on policy, written in the direct language of a CEO, and includes 12 “key initiatives” for the new U.S. President to embrace.
Those 12 initiatives mirror the 12 problems identified in Burke’s recently released, 140-page book, “12 Simple Solutions to Save America.” Burke is a registered Independent, and the solutions reflect that, tilting back and forth from one side of the political spectrum to the other. On public unions he takes a traditionally conservative stance; on campaign finance, he aligns mostly with the left. He proposes a large new safety net he calls “Head Start 2” and advocates for expanding Medicare to cover all of America but, at the same time, demands minimal health standards to enjoy coverage.
Burke’s sister, Mary Burke, ran for the Wisconsin governor’s office in 2014. John Burke insists he has no further political plans, however.
Last summer, VeloNews received a copy of Burke’s book and conducted the following interview with the Trek president. Yes, this remains a cycling website, but given Burke’s position as a leader within the cycling industry, we thought our readers might be interested in Burke’s thoughts.
VN: You say up front that you’re an Independent, but each of the solutions tilts one direction or the other. The union ideas are to the right, the campaign finance to the left. But they’re all political solutions, and would have to be achieved through a political process. Do you have a next step here, or is the purpose just to get the conversation started?
John Burke: The number-one thing is to get the conversation started and to educate the American people. Government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people, and if the people don’t really know the issues, you’re not going to make process.
The goal here was to take 12 major issues that people don’t know that much about and put it all in one book. I think folks need to be more demanding of the government.
VN: You’re not the first person to suggest some of these fixes. Why do you think or hope that you’ll have traction where others haven’t?
JB: I’ve never seen anyone write a book with all of these problems paired with solutions. Certain solutions, you’re right, they’ve been brought up before. I don’t think they’ve been brought up in a complete picture. I haven’t seen a book that takes all of those problems and solves them in 140 pages. In an easy to understand manner. People, if they’re Republican or Democrat, can see that.
VN: Has anything in the political arena changed since you started writing that led you to change something in the book? Have we made any progress on these issues since you started writing?
VN: I guess I knew the answer to that one.
JB: I think it’s gotten worse. The inability of this country to take a look at simple problems and go, ‘Let’s fix it.’ in the best interest of the country. We’ve got massive problems out there like the tax code, our legal system, inequity. You take a look at gun violence, and once again, this thing rears its ugly head, and nobody has done anything.
You sit there are you go, ‘Are you kidding me?’
You’ve got a political campaign where none of the people running could pass an interview at a company. They can’t answer a question. If somebody is being interviewed to be the CEO of Trek, they’re going to be asked, ‘What’s your plan,’ and they better have a pretty good answer. But only if you’re running for the presidency of the United States can you be asked, ‘What’s your plan,’ and you can talk for 20 minutes and say nothing.
The American people deserve better.
VN: You sound frustrated.
JB: I’m always amazed at people putting party above country, and I think that’s only increased over time.
You take a look at congress. For four years they didn’t pass a budget. You take a look at the approval rating of congress, it’s 10 percent. We have a tax code that is 74,000 pages long. The healthcare system, in this country today, is the most expensive healthcare system in the world by a long shot and gets the worst results.
What sports team, or what business would tolerate a team that’s spending the most on payroll and getting the absolute worst results?
One of my favorite graphs in the book is on over the last 15 years, if you take a look at the military industrial complex, and how much money has been spent lobbying Washington. It’s something like $1.3 billion.
Then you ask, ‘What has the healthcare complex spent in the same time?’ It’s $5.2 billion. The lobbying of elected officials keeps everything the same.
But this is an amazing opportunity. In the book, there are 12 major issues that could be solved relatively quickly, and it would have a major impact on the country. That’s why I think this generation has been given an opportunity.
VN: Your sister ran for office. Is there anything else behind the political awakening of the Burkes? Is there a reason why more than one of you are becoming involved?
JB: I think the legacy from my father is that you don’t sit on the sidelines. He was actively involved in a lot of things. My family likes to be involved and solve problems. I think that’s it.
I have a great job and Trek’s a great company, but you can’t sit on the sidelines and just say ‘whatever.’ I think a lot of smart people sit on the sidelines and go ‘whatever.’ I think people who have really benefited from this country have an obligation to say, ‘There are some serious problems.’
VN: It’s not unheard of for future politicians to lay out a platform in a book like this. Do you have plans to run for office?
JB: Nope. I love doing what I’m doing.
VN: Last question. What did you have to leave on the cutting room floor when you wrote this? What were issues 13, 14, and 15?
JB: Oh, man. Immigration was there, but I really don’t know enough about it. And I thought that I would stick to things that I really know, and that I have a real opinion on, and that I think are simple solutions to. One of the things I try to go over in the book is that you don’t need to fix everything in this country. But if you can fix the big things, the amount of change that that would cause, and the amount of other problems that would fix would blow people away. I left a few on the sidelines and just focused on those 12.
All those 12 can be done.