MY TURN, Rex: Maybe we already are running government like a business

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By Jim Rex, special to Statehouse Report  |  On Oct. 3, the American public was treated to simultaneous televised congressional hearings with the former chief executive officer of Equifax and current CEO of Wells Fargo.  Hours of questions and testimony revealed the now all too familiar corporate cultures of greed, incompetence, stonewalling and misrepresentation.

Equifax exposed vast amounts of the personal and financial data of approximately half (145 million) of the American public, and Wells Fargo employees created millions of false accounts, on behalf of millions of their unsuspecting customers, in order to receive incentive bonuses.

Rex

Here in South Carolina, we are simultaneously being shown starkly similar examples of corporate dysfunction within the state-owned and private power utilities, Santee Cooper and SCANA.

The similarities in the federal and state hearings are at least three-fold: 

(1) self-righteous and indignant elected officials who proclaim that they now are intent on protecting the public;

(2) executives under fire who consistently minimize their, and their boards’, culpability; and

(3) minimal, or nonexistent, negative consequences for chief decision-makers (executives and board members) who led the cultures that were responsible for the monumental failures.

So when we hear the often-repeated recommendation that we should run our government “more like a business”, it seems reasonable that we should ask ourselves this:  If we were to follow that recommendation, which businesses and which attributes and characteristics would we actually choose to emulate in our government?

At the moment, it is probably safe to presume that most of us would not list Equifax, Wells Fargo, Santee Cooper or SCANA at, or near, the top of our list for a preferred business model to fashion our government.  And yet, when we look at the criticisms being directed at these four businesses — their lack of effectiveness, transparency, accountability, ethical behavior and concern for customers — they are almost exactly the same things most Americans  complain about when asked to criticize our political system and the government it directs.

Of course, we do have effective, ethical, transparent, accountable businesses in America that look out for their customers, employees and communities.  We have businesses led by individuals who don’t  lie, aren’t guilty of insider trading of their stock options, who actually accept personal responsibility for their mistakes and don’t skip town through “early retirement” with irrationally lucrative golden parachutes.

And, yes, we also have some elected officials who run for office motivated by the desire to provide public service, not by the desire to create and maintain multiple-decade careers in politics.

The real problem lies with all of us — as consumers and as voters.  Our standards and expectations of ourselves, the businesses we interact with, and the elected officials whom we “hire” in the voting booth need to be dramatically elevated.

The first step is as simple as beginning to withhold our purchases of goods and services from businesses led by men and women who are unconscionable, unethical and unaccountable; and, to stop supporting and voting for those who emulate this in our public arenas.

Business versus government?  It is not one being preferable or “better” than the other.  If America is to truly prosper, we need better performance and leadership in both.  Then, and only then, will we see the level of established trust that is necessary for our free market democracy to flourish.

Fairfield County resident Jim Rex, former state superintendent of education, is co-founder of the American Party of South Carolina.

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2 Comments

  1. Excellent Accurate Analysis of State of Affairs in both Government and Business, sadly. 🙁 Thanks Jim!!! 🙂 REBT

  2. Laura Flint says:

    Well said!!!!!

    Dr. Flint

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