Like a bad parody of Terminator, we seem to be living in the Rise of the Business Titan. Rahm, with his millions he made in investment banking, is Chicago’s mayor; Rauner, with his many more millions he made by taking advantage of tax and bankruptcy laws to buy and sell companies at tremendous personal gain while screwing the people who worked at his “investments”; and now Trump, the ultimate business titan who has billions (or does he, we have no idea really) and makes money just by lending his name to big buildings and REALLY screwing the people who work for him.
Why do we all so badly want business titans to lead us?
Business is about profit, yes? Make as much as you can. Business is at its best when it gives back to their society alongside taking profit, recognizing that the long-term health of the cities around them is best for the long-term health of the business. But business, in the end, is about making money.
And making money isn’t bad. I want my company to make tons of money, so I get big raises and a bigger pension. No profit, no job for me.
But when did we all get fooled into thinking that governments should be run as businesses? Governments aren’t businesses!
We all pool our money, in theory based on our ability to pay, and then we SPEND IT ALL ON OURSELVES for things we need. Right? We don’t want a profit. We want police, roads, security when we’re old and can’t work, or if we get very sick. We want schools that are good no matter where we live, and the best people possible teaching our kids. And it’s a lot of responsibility to manage all that money, so we look to hire people to manage that money who can be trusted to spend it wisely…on US!!! And anyone the government hires in our communities to build the roads and teach the kids and keep us safe should be paid well, because they’ll turn right around and spend their pay where they live. And basic economics is that the best people will go for the best paying jobs.
Am I crazy?
Why do we think business titans are more qualified to do something that goes against everything they’ve learned to do to be successful? Having a zero balance at the end of the year, because you gave all the money away, isn’t the standard of success for a business. But it’s exactly what we want from our government. Sure, we want governments to have some savings for emergencies. But that’s it. Otherwise, I want the benefits I’m paying taxes for.
What do business people do? They lower pay for anyone but themselves, cut services from where there will be the least impact to their income stream and popularity (the poor and politically unconnected) — even though that’s where we need to focus the most to make the city healthier — and take care of the people who’ll take care of them later. Will some politicians do the same thing even if they’re not business people? Sure, but they’re doing those things for for a future payout by businesses, they got bought, like we’re finding out about Richie Daley.
Business people like Rahm, Rauner and Trump don’t respect contracts (just change it later if it’s not working for you), workers rights (lowers profit), or even the laws (just sue to change them until you win, or disregard them until someone sues you).
How do we change the conversation from “running government like a business is good” to running government for the benefit of the people? Do we need term limits to get rid of the Madigans of this world, so they stop buying voters for generations? Do we start demanding, right now, 100% disclosure of every government document? How do we get control of our government back from the idea that our taxes are meant for the personal friends of the politicians? Or that business titans have any idea how to change their DNA and spend all the money, so we ALL can have nice things?
Just some things I’m thinking about. And you’re a good listener. And welcome back home.