aNewDomain — I was at the Post Office today. It took 30 minutes from the time I got into line until the time my business was concluded.
I just needed to send a package to a friend in Canada. They made me fill out a customs form and get back into line even though I didn’t need the customs form. They sent two people out on break even though the line was getting long, so that people were coming in, going, Uh, maybe not, and splitting. One agent to help 20 people in line.
This isn’t any way to run a business.
Except it’s exactly how businesses are run.
Carly Fiorina isn’t the only business-credentials person running for president. And being a political outsider isn’t a bad thing. Evidence shows that people don’t tend to trust candidates for president who have never before held elective office, but that does not prove people from outside politics would do a bad job.
It’s Fiorina’s business credentials, like Romney’s before her, that are really unsettling.
Now, Carly Fiorina worked for Hewlett Packard as CEO and, under her tenure, the company lost a great deal of money. We all know that.
HP streamlined on the back of employees – we all know, too, that 30,000 people lost their jobs at HP as a result of that choice.
Fiorina defended herself on this score on Meet the Press, explaining that there still is a Hewlett Packard, after all. Many other companies did not survive that particular market retraction, she said, and yes, she has a point.
But here’s the problem: The Post Office is a public good. The point of the Post Office is not to make money or compete with DHS, Fed Ex, or UPS. Its job is to ensure Americans can communicate over a distance at an affordable rate.
And while it may seem like a miracle to be able to get your package or letter from here to Canada in a few days for a few dollars, it truly isn’t. And not expecting a wait of 30 minutes for the privilege does kind of seem like middle-class whining.
But the Post Office is a central feature of our democracy. The Post Office, after all, democratizes the sharing of information, transportation of products, education, much of the economy. That will be the case until we never need to send something home to mom. The internet can’t wholly replace these functions digitally.
But note that the problems with the Post Office – long waits for dubious service – don’t stem at all from bureaucracy and unfireable employees. They stem from the opposite.
The Post Office is not even allowed to be competitive. It is not permitted to take business from the private carriers mentioned earlier. But it is expected to be financially self-sustaining.
Rather than pay taxes for this public good, this basic function, we expect it to support itself on 45c stamps and at the same time let its most-lucrative potentials move into the private sector. The Post Office is being ruined by the need to compete in the marketplace. We could just say it’s a public good and elect to pay for it; or we could just let it do its own thing and put the private firms out of business.
This is why we shouldn’t elect a business-person president, why we can’t elect Carly Fiorina or anyone else with the idea that the government should be run like a business. Because the government is not a business.
Businesses are psychopathic, for one thing.
To be psychopathic is to be incapable of functional empathy or fear. The psychopath can summon empathy on demand in order to better understand how to exploit a victim, but it never has to fully identify with them.
But the job of the government is to prevent exploitation of the weak by the strong. The government is supposed to fear excessive risk-taking, to stay to the middle path and to care about what happens to its citizens.
As for Romney, well, he made millions dismantling corporations for profit. His success stories only make sense in the psychopathic business world. His success cost people jobs but created value for already-rich shareholders.
Maybe that’s fine for the business world.
Fiorina kept Hewlett Packard “alive,” she says.
But without those 30,000 jobs, does it still really live? Fiorina protected the board and the rich shareholders from the worst of the vagaries of the market, so she did her job as the person running that business. But 30,000 people lost everything.
But that only makes sense in the psychopathic context of the business world, of American profiteering.
Of course business don’t exist to provide jobs or to care for workers. But should it?
Our problems today can be shown to stem from psychopathic business practices.
The trend toward part-time employment saves millionaires millions on benefits. The trend towards lower wages saves the rich a great deal of money on older employees by hiring younger ones more cheaply. We pay nothing for maternity leave, nothing for insurance.
Where has our middle class gone? I know. It was murdered. By psychopaths.
The state of our formerly public institutions has not been improved by bringing in business geniuses. The Bush administration deregulated and privatized the California electrical power system, creating the Enron debacle. Gray Davis got framed for that one, replaced with Schwarzenegger.
Our education system got deregulated and privatized – now half to three quarters of our professors are part-time, contingent faculty too busy making ends meet to have time for students; 80 percent of students in for-profit schools are failing; universities without millions of dollars in reserve capital are starting to fail, close their doors, and try to resolve their financial problems on the backs of an already-struggling faculty.
The post office is a nightmare. For-profit prisons lobby for harsher punishments, stricter laws, and we all suffer from higher taxes as poor and minority citizens get sent to work-farms to profit rich people.
You could do worse than Carly Fiorina, sure. She’s an outsider and hasn’t sold her principles to primary voters yet or come out reciting the party line. But being a political outsider can only be good if one is not instead merely a business insider.
The very same people pulling the strings of government can work so much more efficiently to murder the middle class if they hold the veto pen.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.
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