THE BUSINESSMAN

Sun., October 19, 12:26 PM

I always feel as if the term “businessman” can mean anything — or nothing at all. Consider that, for much of my working life, I could be described as a “businesswoman.”

Once again — as in the past two or three gubernatorial elections — a self-styled expert, a “businessman.” thinks he should be our next governor. What does he know about governing a state? He, like earlier nominees, thinks he has the expertise to start at the top. I have heard nothing to back up his claims and read even less; he held an ambassadorship once. You know how much experience that requires.

You don’t see me running for office. The smartest business managers I ever worked for (some of the world’s best) absolutely refused ever to get involved in government. Despite what you might have thought, business and government just don’t work the same way.

[Personally, if I had any interest in a government position, I would try for an assistantship at a lower level, just to learn something first. I don’t jump into something with both feet and with no prior knowledge.]

I am very skeptical of anyone who is sure he can fix the state by lowering taxes and reducing spending. I am especially distrustful if the person promising doesn’t pay taxes himself. He took economics courses in college? Big deal — that doesn’t automatically make you capable of running a even household budget.

There is a difference between important and urgent. If your building is on fire, you don’t sit down and write a business plan; you get your people to safety and put out the fire.

My work in many offices often involved handling the emergencies — a missed shipment, a question the office staff couldn’t answer — all for the purpose of keeping customers happy. What? You never thought of that? Take my word for it, customers are a lot easier to please than taxpayers. But let’s take a look at the current emergency: the Ebola epidemic, something no one in government was expecting.

At this time, our state has no patients with the disease, though we have a couple who have chosen to quarantine themselves until they’re sure the danger is past. Meanwhile, special training has been set up at the health centers so that health care employees will be ready to care for the sick without infecting themselves.

All of this activity costs money, and much of it cannot be deferred. (When people are working every day, you can’t tell them to wait until next week to feed their families, can you? And you can’t temporarily lay those people off until you have the cash.) Are there contingency funds for such emergencies? I don’t know; I’m pretty sure there are people who should know who don’t. What do you do if those contingency funds are insufficient? I imagine the “businessman” suggests borrowing.

Fascinating, isn’t it? What kind of collateral are you going to use? Just what makes you think that anyone is going to hand you that money?

You could beg, I suppose. Our state doesn’t have a Bill Gates or a Mark Zuckerberg, but we do have a few millionaires, including that businessman who wants to be governor. Considering the amount of money he pays for scummy television ads, you’d think he could spare a million or two to help his state. Don’t hold your breath.

Every morning I turn on the radio to hear the news. And every morning I am lucky if it doesn’t make me cry.





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