Business Background Not Needed to Fix National Problems

I’m all for encouraging nonlawyers to run for public office, but a lack of practical real-world experience is not what ails our political system.

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By Scott Galupo, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Last night’s primary elections yielded few surprises. I’ll focus on the apparent allure of ex-CEOs in California--gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, who is challenging for the Senate seat Barbara Boxer currently occupies. Let’s throw probable GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney into our analysis, too.

The appeal of such candidates tends toward a lot of clichés about tough-mindedness and commonsense: They make trains run on time. They’ve managed a payroll. They’ve answered to shareholders and have been held accountable by the private marketplace. And so on.

Republican voters aren’t alone in their admiration for successful businessmen and -women. Sen. Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, boasted similar marketplace cred, as did, for a time, Jon Corzine, the recently-ousted New Jersey governor and U.S. senator. Ross Perot’s 1992 presidential campaign, too, was undergirded by Perot’s promise to run the federal government more rationally and efficiently--like a business.

[ See who supports Warner.]

Now, I’m all for encouraging nonlawyers to run for public office, and I hold no brief for career politicians. But a lack of practical real-world experience is not what ails our political system or the federal bureaucracy. It’s not why Washington politicians continually fail to balance budgets. Our fiscal problems are, in fact, bleedingly obvious. Their solutions do not require an MBA; they require suicidal political courage.

During the campaign, President Obama liked to say he was going to go “line by line through” the federal budget, keeping what works and ditching what doesn’t. The president could save himself a lot of time, and just focus on four lines--Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Pentagon.

An oddly sane Pat Buchanan observed some months ago:

Needed is a combination of big budget cuts and tax hikes. But the only place one can get budget cuts of the magnitude required is from the big entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicaid. And the only place to get revenue of that magnitude is by raising taxes on the American middle class.

You could fill Congress with 535 ex-CEOs--and they still would face the same intractable, entitlement-addicted customers.