With the U.S. Presidential election about 5 weeks away, this week is another pivotal one in the race between President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney. I have vowed to stay apolitical in my blog and while that’s not about to change (those that know me well know where I stand on things for the most part – yes I lean a little left sometimes more than a little), I am interested in exploring the concept of whether or not running the country like a business – (which most Republican friends of mine support to some degree) is a good idea – or more importantly could work.
However one evaluates President Obama’s overall job performance the American economy is a major factor in this (and every) election year. Governor Romney has argued that his successful business career while being part of Bain Capital positions him to be more successful at fixing the American economy.
Whether or not you agree that outsourcing jobs is a good or bad idea, the phrase ‘taking American jobs and shipping them overseas’, (China being the main culprit apparently), has been thrown around by Democrats regularly. I don’t have much use for that kind of rhetoric any more than I care to continually hear about people paying or not paying their ‘fair share’ – whatever that really means. I’ve a good number of friends – both Democrats and Republicans who are quite successful and to my knowledge they pay their taxes at the rates set by the U.S. government. Using whatever legal means are available to reduce one’s tax base is simply good sense.
Also, I am not any kind of job protectionist nor do I have a real problem with companies, American or not, trying to find less expensive ways to do business. After all at the end of the day companies – particularly public ones are evaluated on earnings performance and profit. It can and often is a heartless way to conduct business but business is exactly what it is – like it or not.
I have run several businesses and as such well understand the need to operate a business within its financial means. But I don’t feel that an ‘all-business’ approach to running a country is an idea that will benefit the bulk of its citizens. There are inherent dangers in so doing one of the larger ones being that people will be thrown off the boat and left in the wake if performance becomes the primary standard of evaluation. Yet that’s the feeling I get when I listen to the Republican platform. They have the experience, they ‘know’ how to balance a budget and they will cut spending so that it is equal with income. As a businessman it’s difficult to argue with that position. But like everything else – the devil’s in the details and there have been surprisingly few details offered by Republicans even up until this very moment.
When looking at the projected ways to balance the U.S. budget it’s obvious that there will be cuts in many programs in many places. I think it’s very dangerous to use the finances of the country as the primary and baseline measuring stick such that the impact of important decisions on people’s everyday lives could be viewed as collateral damage and just a shake-out of dead wood that had to go anyway.
A country should be fiscally sound but using a balance sheet to determine every aspect of a program will stifle sources of new ideas and approaches. Yes there are segments and people that misuse government grants and programs but that’s never going to be eliminated entirely. Public programs need to be reviewed for their effectiveness and held to accountable, agreed-upon standards when launched or when continuing those programs.
But not everything can or should be ‘off-loaded to the private sector’ although that might sound like a good idea and makes a good sound bite. GE business mega-star Jack Welch was famous for cutting the bottom 10% of performer each year. That worked well for GE – if you were not in the bottom 10%. Using that same approach for a country – what would happen to that 10%?
If you get laid off from your job, get fired, or leave your company for some other reason there are hopefully options for you to find work elsewhere. It’s a bit different when being a citizen of a country – moving countries is more difficult that changing jobs.
What do you think – is it feasible to run a country the way you would run a business?