The Republican Party can't let this one go. They can't stop fantasizing about how government can and should be run like a business, despite the vast differences between corporate leadership and political leadership -- between the nature of government versus the nature of business. Or perhaps they don't want to believe it because it interferes with their ongoing ideological push to privatize everything, thus drowning government in the bathtub.
On Monday, the White House announced that President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, would be heading up a task force to change the nature of the federal government so that it runs more like a business.
"The government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens," Kushner told the Post in an interview.
The basic premise is entirely wrong. Businesses are solely tasked with turning a profit; the government is expressly forbidden from running a profit; the government can print money; a corporation's responsibility is to its shareholders, not "We the People" at large; and a government functions on democratic consensus, while a business runs on the plans of its CEO. The list of differences go on and on. John T. Harvey, writing for Forbes, put it this way:
Bear in mind, first, that “efficiency” in the private sector means profit. Hence, to ask that the government be run like a business is tantamount to asking that the government turn a profit. The problem in a nutshell, is that not everything that is profitable is of social value and not everything of social value is profitable. Reality TV, pornography, fashion, sports, and gambling are all of questionable social value, but each is quite profitable and exists in the private sector. Meanwhile, few would argue that the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, police department, fire department, libraries, parks, and public schools are of no social value, and yet they could not exist if they were required to be profitable.
Exactly. And yet this myth survives today. Worse yet, it appears as if the Trump White House is getting ready to make some huge changes to that end.
Here's the other problem. Trump knows it doesn't work. In fact, he just learned and admitted to a valuable lesson following the collapse of Trumpcare last week. In a conversation with The Washington Post's Robert Costa, Trump revealed that putting together a political deal is vastly different that putting together a real estate deal.
For Trump, it was never supposed to be this hard. As a real estate mogul on the rise, he wrote “The Art of the Deal,” and as a political candidate, he boasted that nobody could make deals as beautifully as he could. Replacing Obamacare, a Republican bogeyman since the day it was enacted seven years ago, was Trump’s first chance to prove that he had the magic touch that he claimed eluded Washington. [...]
But legislating, it turned out, was different from cutting deals to splash his name across skyscrapers. And less than 100 days into his administration, the president found himself a red-faced Don Quixote, railing against the intractable forces on Capitol Hill, where Republicans are wearied by years of infighting.
Of course you and I could've told him this years ago because anyone with a working knowledge of politics, the Constitution and the American system of government would know that businesses have a completely different mandate, with significantly fewer people to convince of policy changes or proposals. The point here, specifically, is that Trump learned this lesson just three days ago and yet he's pushing forward with this suspicious plot to make government more business-like.
The consequences will be catastrophic. Our constitutional system is designed to put the people in charge -- as Trump promised in his inaugural address, by the way -- but businesses only respond to the people when their products aren't selling. The government ideally has to respond to the people at all times, no matter what. Running the government like a business, therefore, will accelerate the trend of putting money before people and corporate speech before individual speech. It'll place more government control in the hands of oligarchs and the power elite.
If you're thinking this sounds like Russia's autocratic kleptocracy, with its strongman CEO president, you're definitely tracking with me here. It's the next totally transparent step toward transforming the United States into a more Putinist system -- a move that'll surely benefit Trump, Putin and their billionaire pals before it benefits you.