You know them—they’re the ones touting their vast business experience as qualifying them to run the country or the state or the county or the city or the school board. If only we elect them, they say, their ability to identify and eliminate waste and red tape, to professionalize procedures, to bring modern business practices to government will solve budget stalemates, reduce deficits, cut taxes, and let all of us live happily ever after.
As far as I’m concerned, any candidates who cite their business experience as a major qualification for holding public office automatically lose my vote.
Just once I’d like to see a gubernatorial candidate spend $50 million on campaign ads explaining that government is not like business, that government’s reason for being is not to maximize profits, and that voters elect officials to further numerous non-monetary values and goals. I’d like to see a candidate say that yes, it’s important to reduce and eliminate fraud and waste, but that, no, those efforts won’t be nearly enough, because there’s too much that we want government to do and too little we’re willing to pay for it.
Making government work is hard.
Here in California, we’ve a particularly annoying crop of CEO candidates this year. There’s the astounding fired former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, whose demon sheep ad is already legendary. And there’s the opaque Meg Whitman, who not only avoid press questions but now is even sending tape footage to California TV stations. Neither’s CEO skills seem to be helpful to their campaigns.
It’s all making me positively nostalgic for Jerry Brown. Say what you will about him (and there’s plenty to say), the man at least knows how government works.