Obama: Government is not a business

Finally, somebody with a really big soap box has taken on the fundamental assumption of the cult of capitalism.

Mitt Romney’s primary campaign position has been that his business experience will allow him fix what’s wrong with the federal government. While Gov. Romney may be a well-qualified presidential prospect, treating government like a business is unrealistic, simplistic and likely to exacerbate the nation’s largest societal problems.

When taking questions at the close of the NATO Summit in Chicago earlier this week, President Obama concisely confronted the assumption that what the United States needs is a government run like a business. As quoted in a variety of media, including this ABC news report, Obama said:

“Understand that their [business executives'] priority is to maximize profits. And that’s not always going to be good for communities or businesses or workers. And the reason this is relevant to the campaign is because my opponent, Governor Romney, his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. You know, he’s not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He’s saying ‘I’m a business guy. I know how to fix it.’ And this is his business…”

Obama continued, by saying, when one is president…

“…as opposed to the head of private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits, your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot. Your job is to think about those workers who get laid off and how are we’re paying for their retraining…. My job is to take into account everybody, not just some.”

While it’s the first time Pres. Obama may have said it so clearly, it’s not the first time the point has been made. In a February Wall Street Journal commentary, Robert Reilly, a former Reagan special assistant, wrote:

When Mr. Romney was running for president four years ago, he said in an interview that the first thing he would do in the White House would be to bring in some business consultants. In other words, Washington is a management problem.

This is a profoundly mistaken Republican notion that goes back at least to Herbert Hoover, a successful mining engineer, businessman and progressive politician who was an advocate of the “Efficiency Movement,” an attempt to manage government better.

…Mr. Romney has a tendency to treat his business autobiography as a policy prescription… Like Hoover, Mr. Romney wants to be president because he thinks he can manage things better. But my advice to any person who seeks to move American politics through his ability to succeed in business is: Stay home. It will be better for you and for your country.

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