Thursday, December 1, 2011

Do Businessmen Make Good Presidents?

Vote for me!  Unlike those other guys who are politicians, I’m a businessman.  I’ll run the government just like a business.

George W. Bush used his MBA from Harvard to boast of his business prowess.  And more recently there is Mitt Romney who touts his experience at Bain Capital taking over and liquidating companies and not his time as the governor of Massachusetts to boost his qualifications for the presidency.

And then there is Herman Cain who has no experience in elected office running for president based on his experience as the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza.

Is business experience in itself adequate preparation for running a government?  To begin to answer that question, it has to be pointed out that a business and a government are very different. 

A business takes in money to make as much profit as possible.  A government takes in money in the form of taxes to provide services for its citizens.  Of course, it is beneficial to spend the tax receipts as efficiently as possible.  But while a business can and does cut workers to meet the bottom line, a government shouldn’t indiscriminately cut government workers and recipients who rely on the safety net programs just to try and balance a budget.

And then there is Herman Cain’s abysmal ignorance of foreign affairs as shown in his beki beki stan stan quote along with the embarrassing silence when asked a question about Libya.  I believe much of this is the mentality Cain has as a former business CEO.  As the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, he likely didn’t have to be familiar with all of the details of how the pizza was made.  Other people who worked for him were in charge of that.

So it’s easy for him to say that if he wins the presidency, he will surround himself with advisors to help him so he doesn’t need to know about foreign policy or much of anything else.  But running a government is different.  Especially for a president, decisions on foreign policy can mean the difference between life and death for people.  More importantly, if a presidential candidate is not curious enough to learn about the issues he may face, how will he know enough to intelligently choose who will be advising him?

After 9/11, George W. Bush relied on Donald Rumsfeld who advised him to invade Iraq based on questionable WMD intelligence – a decision that was a disaster.  As bad as that was, can you imagine Herman Cain dealing with a catastrophe the likes of 9/11?

But when questioned about his lack of foreign policy knowledge, Cain responded that “we need a leader, not a reader”, a line he may have gotten from The Simpsons.

Ignorance is not bliss.  We need candidates who have a working knowledge of the issues of the day.  If that means they are politicians and not businessmen, so be it.

But ignorance is not bliss for voters either.  It’s easy to think like Cain and say that one will rely on the experts to make decisions for us.  But experts disagree, sometimes strongly.  While we cannot all expect to become experts, we can at least become critical thinkers by at least acquiring a basic understanding of the issues and expecting no less of those who want to lead us!