Why can’t the government be run like business?

Sometimes, when I’m waiting in line at the grocery store for a price check on a box of Ramen noodles or waiting for the cashier to get a new roll of nickels or waiting for a manager to change the register tape, I can’t help but wonder, “Why can’t our government be run like this? Like a business?”

But can you imagine how bad things would be if we ran businesses like the government? Imagine a government run airline! They’d overbook the flights, they’d bump passengers, they’d lose luggage, they’d make people sit on the tarmac for 10 hours and never tell them why – and they’d lose tons of money. It would be a total disaster – nothing like the smooth model of efficiency that the airlines are now.

Can you imagine the government running an investment company like Bear Stearns or Lehman Brothers? They’d bankrupt those places in a week. Thousands of employees would be out on the street and millions of investors would lose their shirts. That’s because the government doesn’t know how to run things like a business. What if the government ran Ford and GM? They’d run them into the dirt in no time. What does the government know about making cars? They don’t have any experience running an automobile company. How long would it be before foreign car companies started eating our lunch? Thank goodness Ford and GM are run like businesses, run by some of the highest-paid executives in the world and not by know-nothing government bureaucrats.

What if the government ran our healthcare system? The mind reels, it’d be wildly expensive – a simple ride in an ambulance might cost $2,000 dollars. Hospitals would send the government bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars for diseases patients caught at the hospital, for tests they didn’t need. Bad doctors would circulate in the system forever, skipping from one hospital to another like flesh-eating bacteria. Our health care would be run by some bumbling, incompetent, unfeeling government bureaucrat instead of some bumbling, incompetent, unfeeling insurance-company bureaucrat, the way it is now.

Unlike business, the government wastes money. Who hasn’t heard about the $600 toilet seats for the Air Force jets, which is completely different than the $6,000 shower curtain the CEO of Tyco International had installed in his home at the company’s expense. He needed that curtain for business, something the government knows nothing about. One shudders to think what would happen to the price of energy if the government were in charge of setting energy policy instead of the giant, international oil corporations who have years of experience in the business. Why the price of gas might go up as high as $4.50 a gallon. Or more! It could wreck our whole way of life.

Besides, as we all know because we hear it a lot, the government never created a job. I don’t know what my dad was doing for the 33 years he spent in the Navy, but he sure as hell wasn’t working, because the government never created a job. And delivering the mail isn’t a job and making fighter jets isn’t a job; building and repairing highways isn’t a job, because only business can create jobs. I know several people right now who make a living foreclosing houses. Just one example of the kind of jobs business created, not the government.

So the next time you’re sleeping on the floor of an airport terminal waiting for a new piece of “equipment” to arrive; the next time your car breaks down seconds after the warranty expires; the next time you waste a day waiting for the cable guy; the next time you take a day off work waiting for a department-store delivery that never arrives; the next time a mechanic charges you $300 for fixing a 2 cent part; the next time your credit card company gets hacked; the next time your cell phone company over charges you a few thousand dollars, I hope you ask yourself, “Why can’t they run the government like this? Like a business?”

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at jim_mullen@myway.com

Copyright 2008, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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