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Should America Be Run Like A Business?

Nehemia Horowitz

Barring the unforeseen, the economy will continue to be the dominant issue in the 2012 presidential election campaign. As such, the current frontrunners for the Republican nomination — Mitt Romney and Herman Cain — are both trumpeting their successful careers in business as qualification for the highest office in the land. But is there really a connection between the corner office of the corporate CEO and the oval office of the chief executive of the United States? Should America be run like a business?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The ability to analyze a political situation from a business perspective has its clear plusses. Romney and Cain haven’t merely talked about utilizing their business experience in running the country; they have demonstrated it in action.

In 1994, as head of the National Restaurant Association, Herman Cain challenged President Bill Clinton at a nationally publicized town hall meeting in Kansas City. Cain disputed Clinton’s reassurances that his proposal for health care reform would not harm American business owners and their employees.

“Quite honestly, Mr. President, your calculations are incorrect,” he said. “In the competitive marketplace, it simply doesn’t work that way.” Cain’s skepticism resonated with the public and Newsweek later credited him as a “primary saboteur of Hillary-care.” In his first year as Massachusetts governor in 2003, the Democratic legislature rejected Romney’s management-based recommendations for a radical overhaul of the state educational system. As a CEO, Romney might have issued a directive and brooked no opposition. But politics isn’t like that and Romney learned a lesson from it. In his last year in office, in 2007, Romney again applied business methods to evaluate a problem, though this time the approach was more pragmatic and attuned to the realities of state politics.

The effort resulted in passage of a new law — to provide for universal health care. Of course, what may have been a notable success in Massachusetts may be viewed differently by voters in a Republican primary. The point is that Romney learned to transform managerial expertise into political clout.

One connection between business success and politics is undeniable — the resources it provides for campaigning. Romney contributed over $6 million to his own campaign for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, a state record at the time. In the 2008 presidential campaign, he spent $45 million of his own cash.

With an estimated $6–$8 billion expected to be spent on the upcoming presidential campaign, by both parties, no matter how well the winning candidate knows how to manage money, if he doesn’t have it to begin with, he may never have the chance to prove his economic prowess.


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