Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fixing the US Economy, A Modest Business Plan.

“If I ran my business the way the government runs this country, why, I’d be out of business!”

How many times have you heard that declaration?

Once a week? Once a day? Pretty often lately anyway. 

I hear it on the street. I hear it in casual conversation.  I hear Senators-elect saying it.  I hear it from small business people. I hear it from drunken slobs at parties.  Your business? Really, Mr. Trump? I’m surprised to see you around here. Down in the gutter with us riff raff, I mean.

If I ran my business the way the government runs this country, I’d be out of business.

You hear it so often that a lot of folks have come to believe it. They’ve started to think that statement actually means something. It doesn’t. In fact, it’s a stupid idea. Hell, most businesses don’t run the way people mean when they make that statement.  If you ran your business like the government runs the country, well, sure, of course you’d be out of business –  because if you ran your business like a government, especially ours, you’d have to be a complete imbecile.

Run a business like government?

What kind of business?

The good ones are usually run like dictatorships, widely hated but often very profitable – until the inevitable weak-chinned grandson inherits the organization anyway. The mediocre ones bear a distinct resemblance to socialism, they tend to modest profits, they’re rarely innovators but nobody cares because they offer healthcare and benefits, they have a lot of office parties and at least all the employees are reasonably happy.  And the bad ones look a lot like the old Soviet Union, run by a corrupt bunch of dour incompetents, producing shoddy products built by a sullen slovenly workforce, no toilet paper in the restrooms and about one layoff from revolution. 

Businesses aren’t democracies.

And they’re sure not republics.

Honestly, take a minute and think about it. The closest “business” to a republic would be a Mafia run protection racket – or, if you squint your eyes, an insurance company, which is basically the same thing only more dangerous and obnoxious.


But what if government was like a company?


What if America really was a business?

What if President Obama decided to take the clamoring politicos, pollsters, pundits, protesters, and Palins up on their advice?  Yes, what if we decided to run America like a business? I mean, they turned GM around, right? They turned Apple around, made it profitable again. Why couldn’t we do the same thing with the United States? The country is full of unemployed MBA’s, I say let’s put those people to work. Get a business plan together, find some investors, infringe on a couple of patents, bribe a few officials. Business. That’s what I’m talking about here. 

You want to fix the economy? Easy, we borrow money from Third World countries and just don’t pay it back. Seriously what are they going to do about it?

What? That’s not really a business plan?  Well, obviously somebody hasn’t been paying attention.  Fine, we’ll call that Plan B.

Seriously, you want to run America like a business? Here’s how we do it:


No no no, not branding, Branding. I’m not talking about using a red hot iron to sear letters into flesh, that’s further down in the plan (look under the section labeled Guaranteeing Citizen Employee Loyalty). No, what I’m talking about is national Branding. I’m talking about the American Brand. I see people wearing those little Red White and Blue Flag pins all of the time, and they’ve got those Old Glory magnets on their bumpers. I see companies using the image of Uncle Sam, and George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to sell products made in China. Last night on the news there were a bunch of angry people burning the President in effigy.  Seriously, these people are pirating America. They’re using images of America, our America, without paying a cent. Here in Alaska, there’s some outfit that dresses up a kid like the Statue of Liberty and has him stand out on the corner waving a sign for tax return preparation.  Do they pay royalties to America for that?  Hell no they don’t.  That’s exactly like stealing from the Treasury. Coca Cola wouldn’t put up with that kind of crap, they protect their brand. Hell, so does Toy-R-Us.  Why shouldn’t America LLC?  Make Harlan Ellison Attorney General and turn the mean son of a bitch loose, that’s what I’m saying.  Watch the money start flowing in. 

Get rid of the deadwood.

How did GM become profitable again? They sold off underperforming business units and closed outdated factories.  They pared the company down to fighting trim and got rid of the flab that was dragging them back. If we’re going to run America as a business, as a business folks, we need to take heed. It’s time to make some hard choices. For example:  What’s Mississippi done for us lately?  Seriously?  They’re dead last in education. Dead last in science and technology. Dead last in industry and production and tax revenue.  They lead the country in welfare and obesity and they have got shit for natural resources unless you need alligators and humidity. They suck. They dragging us down. Mississippi is nothing but an albatross around our necks and they’re a pain in the ass to spell. Honestly, how many damned ess’s does one state need? They’re a letter hog.  I say, fuck ‘em.  Who’d we buy that shithole from in the first place? The stinking French? Do we still have the receipt? Maybe we can get a refund. Somebody check and see what Mexico would offer us. We do this right and we’ll get rid of a whole bunch of unemployed assholes too.  Who else? How about Guam? What the hell do they do for us? We’ve got one Hawaii, do we really need two? The Virgin Islands? Trust me, folks, that name is nothing but a gimmick cooked up by Marketing.  I’ve been there, they don’t have any virgins.  Connecticut? Do we really need both a North and South Carolina? Can we really afford a North and South Dakota? Not when you’re undercapitalized, folks. And I think we could sell off West Virginia, don’t you? Hell, we’ll throw it in free to whomever buys Texas.

Monetize Waste.

A while back, here in Alaska, there was a guy who stepped into a pile of moose manure and saw dollars.  Yes, you read that right. He stuck a swizzle stick into a turd, dipped that baby in varnish, and started selling them to tourists.  And thus was the billion dollar Moose Nugget industry born. This guy figured out how to literally turn shit into money.  Genius. Today, he’s a gazillionaire who drives around in a customized 24k gold plated Hummer shaped like a moose pellet. True story. That’s what we need here.  We need to stop throwing money away.  What the hell am I talking about? Secrets, of course. Secrets. We just throw them away. Example: some jackass in the State Department just gave a whole boatload of government secrets to Wikileaks for free. For free, folks. Back your truck up to the loading dock and you can haul away as much of this crap as you can carry. We’ve got tons of this shit. But, Jim, I hear you say in that quizzical tone you use when I’m talking about complex economics that are way over your heads, government secrets have always been free, that’s why we have unnamed sources who are not authorized to talk to the press.  Sure, that’s okay when it’s just a Watergate Scandal here and an Iran Contra Affair there. I hear what you’re saying. But you need to stop living in the past. Of course National Secrets couldn’t be recycled profitably back then. But by leveraging evolving technology we can now turn those worthless secrets into a valuable commodity instead of throwing it away like those restaurants that pour their fryer grease down the storm drain instead of selling it as synthetic human blood substitute.  We’ve got centuries of secrets, folks, centuries.  If we charged for them, why we could pay off the debt in no time and maybe even turn a tidy profit. Shit into money folks, genius.

Focus on Core Business.

What do we do best? What is our core product? What do we Americans do better than anybody else? When people think of America, what do they think of?  That’s right, war. Big fucking stormin’ the beach war.  Nobody does it like us.  Let’s focus on that.  Wait, I hear you say, we’re as confused as Sarah Palin when it comes to which one is the good Korea.  War? War isn’t profitable. Well no, not the way we’ve been doing it. Of course not.  We’ve been doing war the way Enron sold energy, which come to think of it was pretty damned profitable for a while, until it wasn’t. Again, you need to think about running government like a real business.  No, no, hear me out.  What’s one of the most successful businesses in the country? Hell, in the world? Who are the most successful business people you know? Right! Drug dealers! How do they do it? Free samples.  That’s it exactly. They give you a free sample and next thing you know, you’re hooked. Then they’ve got themselves a lifetime customer.  That’s brand loyalty right there. That’s good marketing. That’s where the whole “extended warranty” idea came from.  See what we do is offer the invasion part of war for free.  Yep. We’ll invade your country, topple your dictator, destroy your infrastructure, for nothing. Won’t cost you a penny. Hell, this week we’ll even throw in a bonus Predator strike guaranteed to barbeque an entire wedding party, absolutely gratis.  But, see, here’s the cool part: we charge for the extras.  That’s right. Now, after the invasion, would you like order restored?  Not a problem, that’ll be $20 Billion. Per month. Too steep? Well, maybe we can impose martial law in just your capital. I’ll have to talk to my boss, but I think with a trade-in we can do $2 Billion, and $500 million for each additional city up to five.  Yes, that’s right, folks, we pro-rate war.  Who’s turning shit into money now?   Want us to prop up your inept interim government? Make your brother-in-law Minister of Finance? Provide humanitarian aid?  Let’s talk about a payment plan. You know we offer easy financing to qualified buyers, how are your oil reserves looking? Now, have you thought long term? We offer an entire range of options from our Friend of America Basic Corrupt Despot all the way up to our Gold Star Premium Full Western Style Democracy Package.  Which one is right for you? Here take one of our brochures.

Brilliant, I know. Make sure they spell my name right on the Nobel Prize.

What? You there, speak up? What’s your problem? What if they won’t pay after we invade them? Business 101, Folks. A good business plan includes Enterprise Risk Management.  That’s the problem with our current form of government, no backup plan if things go pear shaped. What if they don’t pay? Well, then they’re not return customers are they?  How then, do we recoup our venture capital? One word, pillage.  Worked for Bank of America.

Optimize Efficiencies.

Soylent Green. Feed the homeless to the hungry. Talk about doubling your efficiency, there’s really no downside to this. Well, OK, those pudgy homeless Wall Street executives are a little high in cholesterol, but that’s really about it.

Seek New Revenue Streams.

Cap & Trade. Seriously. It’s brilliant. Now, I know a lot of you hate the idea of Cap & Trade but that’s because you don’t understand business.  See most people are convinced that Cap & Trade is a typical liberal tree-hugging anti-business idea, right? Wrong. Carbon dioxide? Folks we’re talking about an invisible colorless, odorless gas. My God, it’s the perfect product. What? You want to pay us to reduce invisible gas emissions? Sure. Done. When do we see the check? What? What did we do with it? We, uh, sequestered it this Ionized Revitalizing Water! Soothes wrinkles and eliminates embarrassing flatulence. $19.95. But wait! There’s more.  Order now and we’ll not only send you a second bottle absolutely free, we’ll also send you this Magnetized Copper Blood Alignment Bracelet made from genuine recycled environmental carbon! Every one of these you buy, a polar bear gets its wings! Pick up the phone now, for the Earth!

Hidden Fees. No, no! Put down those pitchforks! I’m not talking about sticking it to those poor, poor millionaires who have born an unreasonable percentage of this economic downturn. Of course not, they’ve suffered enough.  No, I’m talking about people who don’t know any better. I’m talking about fleecing the suckers.  I’m talking about stupid people.  Look here, hidden fees are just good business. Stupid people suck up more than their fair share of our resources.  They’re like that guy at the Golden Coral who keeps going back for more – those gluttonous pricks are literally eating into our profit margin. Stupid people have all kinds of money and it just makes good business sense to get a piece of that. How? Well, we could tax them.  Of course you’d have to call it something else, say like a lottery, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  How did the big airlines make themselves profitable?  Baggage fees! $25 for the first checked bag, $35 for the second, $45 for the third, etc. And people pay it. Sure they bitch, but they pay and pay and pay.  What the hell am I talking about? Kid Fees, $25 for the first one, $35 for the second, and so on. Stupid people often have a lot of kids.  Oh, now don’t go getting all pissy, you know it’s true. They even have books for them, Parenting For the Complete Idiot. I mean who did you think was buying those?  Frankly I think there are way too many idiots having kids nowadays and if we’ve got to put up with their screaming carpet monkeys we ought to be clearing some profit, it just stands to reason. Really want to stimulate business? Have Obama casually mention “gun control.”  Every Redneck, Revolutionary, Gun Nut, Lug Nut, and Wing Nut will be out spending their last dime at the local Guns and Ammo. Call it trickle up economics, that huge surge of moola will power our economy well into the 21st Century.


Well, there you have it.

If somebody has a better plan, I’d sure like to hear it.

Frankly, I’m not holding my breath.


  1. In Real Life, Obama didn't even have to mention gun control for West Michiganders to buy up a storm of shootin' iron and tons of rounds.

    Dr. Phil

  2. My plan is simpler- it's in the interest of the US to have its people employed. Therefore, we raise taxes on businesses that send their jobs overseas.

    Yours is funnier, though. Good thing my keyboard's been waterproofed.

    mookers- those high cholestrol executives we're feeding to the hungry.

  3. Jim, I see no mention of one of the biggest ways modern corporations can increase profits: outsourcing.

    This strategy can easily mesh with other proactive paradigmatic shifts you've visualized: e.g. why should Americans fight these wars if it's cheaper to outsource the job to cheap labor in India or China? American military folks expect benefits and salary that workers in industrializing nations aren't looking for. So, we lay off this section of the citizenry, removing them from the premises (Canada, Mexico, dogpaddling off the Atlantic or Pacific coasts--it doesn't matter, they clear out their cubicles--er, "homes"--and leave the property) and hire the armed forces of India (or whatever other country-contractor offers the lowest bid) to conduct these invasions/occupations for hire.

    The added advantage of this plan is that removing ex-citize--excuse me, ex-employees from the premises is that this will create quite a lot of vacant space that can potentially be rented out to other nations. You mentioned Mississippi, for instance: well, Britain is a small, wet, cold island--surely they'd be thrilled to have a chance to rent out a warmer climate for a few months out of the year, or take a yearly lease and sublet the state to Belgium or the Netherlands a few weeks each summer, perhaps.

    I should also add for myself: I'm not too worried. If there's one thing big corporations need plenty of, it's lawyers. I believe I'll be able to secure a position with the firm after the transition.

  4. Our incoming Governor here in Ohio has been pronouncing the same crap and talking about how he's going to turn this state around (even though we had the 5th fastest growing economy the past year, too bad that report didn't show up until after the election).

    During one of his blatherings he talked about not coming up with an economic plan until he saw what the revenues were going to be. Really? Um, you know, in government, if you do that, you go to jail for malfeasance. Seriously, it's against the law to wait that long. We already set our budget for next year (as required by law). We'll do our appropriations two months into the new year (as required by law) and then hope we meet our targets (well, and make sure we don't spend more than what's coming in). I wonder if anybody has told him that yet?

  5. I would consider that refreshing, Steve. You know, a politician who admits right up front that he's going to break the law.

    What? Me worry?

    Speaking of which, anybody see that Rod Blagojevich is now doing TV commericials for pistachios? Seriously, WTF?

  6. Add Erik's addendum, and it is incontheivable that a better plan than this could possibly exist any more than a virgin in the Virgin Islands.

  7. Your points about "focusing on core business" reminded me of this Neal Stephenson quote from Snowcrash.

    When it gets down to it, talking trade balances here, once we've brain-drained all our technology into other countries, once things have evened out, they're making cars in Bolivia and microwave ovens in Tadzhikistan and selling them here, once our edge in natural resources has been made irrelevant by giant Hong Kong ships and dirigibles that can ship North Dakota all the way to New Zealand for a nickel, once the Invisible Hand has taken away all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity, y'know what? There's only four things we do better than anyone else:
    microcode (software)
    high-speed pizza delivery

    So basically, those our the core businesses of the USA. And war. Of course war.

  8. On the other hand, compare the difference between the salary of the lowest paid full time worker and the chief executive, and the government is looking pretty good compared to corporate America!

  9. Why on earth should we even think about running our government "like a business?"

    A business exists to maximize profits for its investors. Fair enough.

    Our government exists to

    * form a more perfect Union,
    * establish Justice,
    * insure domestic Tranquility,
    * provide for the common defence,
    * promote the general Welfare, and
    * secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity

    Completely different missions and goals.

    Of course, use common sense and good judgment, but if you use the wrong navigational star, you're likely to end up on the rocks or simply lost at sea.


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