Friday, June 9, 2017

Governing is not at all like running a business

Pretending that government can be run like a business
is foolish for both politicians and the country. 

During last year's presidential jamboree, and Ross Perot's short-lived run for president in 1992, I heard many friends say—sometimes pounding their fists on the table for emphasis—that what America needed was someone who could run the country like a business!

Presumably that person would cut waste, use the latest business accounting principles to balance the budget and perform other miracles that would "drain the swamp" as someone famously said.

The problem, as President Trump keeps demonstrating time and again, is that running the government and a business are not the same thing. 

For a preacher to promise to run his church with the same sharp eye and efficiency as the hardware store next door—as if consoling distraught widows and selling lawn mowers required roughly similar skills—would be dismissed as laughable.   

Little guy with big charts.

A significant part of the problem with Trump's chaotic presidency so far is that he does not have the political experience to temper his expectations and those of his supporters, and to muddle through the tedious consensus-building legislative process. 

That process is not necessarily a sign of incompetence or bureaucratic torpor but of how things work in a participatory democracy. We're not America, Inc. or worse, an autocracy like Russia run by Trump's bro', Vladimir Putin.  

Add to that Trump's profound ignorance of basic national and international affairs and his reported aversion to reading and learning, and you've got a White House operation that looks and sounds like someone running nuts and bolts through a blender. 

In Trumplandia—before he moved to the White House—I suspect corporate budgets, projects and deals were prepared and approved, and pronto, behind closed doors. Trump didn't have to deal with public opinion polls or the unrelenting scrutiny of the media. If the v.p. of something or other didn't perform to his satisfaction,Trump could can him or her without worrying about public outcries, congressional hearings or special prosecutors. If you didn't want to make public your tax returns or some details of your business wheelings and dealings, hey, so you didn't.

Politics and democratic government require lobbying, negotiation, compromises and most of all finesse and time, none of them skills Trump seems to have. Building a consensus among your supporters and even with the opposition is a necessary part of getting your agenda enacted. 

Even the most worthwhile pieces of legislation can get caught in the Washington meat grinder if you fail to take your time and consult with all the appropriate poobahs, agencies and departments, and even some of the lower-level tadpoles in the bureaucratic swamp. 

During a press conference following former FBI director James Comey's testimony before the Senate, House Speaker Paul Ryan offered perhaps the lamest defense of the continuing debacle that is the Trump administration. 

"He's new to government," Ryan said. "And so he probably wasn't steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationship between DOJ, FBI and the White House. He's just new to this." 

So ladies and gentlemen, next time shome business whiz promises to set the listing ship of government by using corporate expertise and algorithms, run the opposite the way. And if the person is crooked and dishonest to boot, run twice as fast. 
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