Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, October 7, 2010 8:55 pm

You keep using that word phrase. It does not mean what you think it means.

In general, I hold in contempt people who say government ought to be run more like a business, not only because businesses and government have different ends and therefore are likely to need different means, but also because a lot of businesses, especially large ones, are crappily run.

But if I’m going to be intellectually honest, I have to admit that there can be some merit to this view. The problem for people who think this, however, is that they associate “running government more like a business” solely with a fatter annual bottom line. Running a business well, however, sometimes means spending more in the short term, and even going into debt, to take advantage of growth opportunities and generally ensure long-term viability:

People say that the government should be run more like a business. So imagine you are CEO of the government. Your bridges are crumbling. Your schools are falling apart. Your air traffic control system doesn’t even use GPS. The Society of Civil Engineers gave your infrastructure a D grade and estimated that you need to make more than $2 trillion in repairs and upgrades. [And your Internet is nowhere near world-class — Lex]

Sorry, chief. No one said being CEO was easy.

But there’s good news, too. Because of the recession, construction materials are cheap. So, too, is the labor. And your borrowing costs? They’ve never been lower. That means a dollar of investment today will go much further than it would have five years ago — or is likely to go five years from now. So what do you do?

If you’re thinking like a CEO, the answer is easy: You invest. You get it done.

So we’ve got good news and bad news.

The good news is, the federal government is going to spend $50 billion to get (some of) it done.

The bad news is, $50 billion is only a tiny fraction of what we need to spend. It will neither make much of a dent in the backlog nor create many jobs. But our politics have become so damned dysfunctional that $50 billion in the largest amount that can even be discussed publicly, let alone have a chance of passing; meanwhile, Newt Gingrich is running around saying that the voters’ choice in November is between “paychecks and food stamps.” This is what passes for serious thinking from the politician and potential presidential contender widely considered, by people who are not me, to be the brightest, most visionary candidate in the GOP stable.

Jesus wept. And so will tens of millions of un- and under-employed Americans and their families.




1 Comment

  1. Newt doesn’t even understand the multiplier effect. Yikes.

    Comment by Thomas — Friday, October 8, 2010 8:00 am @ 8:00 am

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