Run Government Like a Business

Tuesday, April 13, 1993   |   Posted by Jim Hightower
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In politics, the air is often full of speeches . . . and vice versa. One of the airiest of political ideas -- becoming sort of the Cheeze Whiz of American politics -- is that [quote] "government should be run like a business." Jim Hightower . . . right back to let some air out of this bit of conventional wisdom.
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Jim Hightower remembering the visit that Bill Clinton recently made to Apple Computer in Cupertino, California. He toured the plant, then told a group of assembled employees: We oughta run government more like a business.

Hmmm. One wonders: Which business did he have in mind?

Apple? They employ about as many workers in Singapore as in our entire country. How about Gillette, Columbia Pictures, A&P, Nestles, Fox TV Network, Burger King? Nope, they're no model for our government -- all of 'em are foreign-owned.

Well, if Washington is run like General Motors, will the executives move the State Department across the border to Mexico? And will we have to pay top government executives $2 million, $12 million, even $50 million as corporations do?

Should we hire people like Michael Milkin, Charles Keating, Frank Lorenzo, Leona Helmsley, and hundreds of others who ran their businesses -- by hook or by crook, running roughshod over employees, consumers, competitors? And remember, when the going gets tough in government, executives can't just move operations to Korea, eliminate everyone's pensions and health plans, secretly arrange a buyout of stockholders and jump to safety with a "golden parachute."

OK, maybe I'm overdoing it. If the President simply meant that government should adopt innovative management methods, pay more attention to the bottom line, seek efficiencies, and reward enterprise . . . then there are some things to learn from our best businesses. But business has few of the inherent complexities of government. which has to operate openly -- not behind closed doors; do "good" -- not just make money; and serve everyone, regardless of ability to pay -- not just appeal to a market niche.

This is Jim Hightower saying . . . it makes a nice phrase for politicians, but if we actually ran government like business, we could wind up operating like a savings and loan.

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