Corporate culture in the White House

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The go-it-alone philosophy of the current administration coupled with the selfish rule of the business elite makes the correction of major world problems almost impossible. By the end of the current presidential term, this generation will know the effects of a large-casualty war: a massive deficit, a thinly stretched military and alienation from other world powers.

The rule of the business aristocracy will, by necessity, prove to be adverse to the overall interests of the citizenry – the objectives of business and government are incompatible. The goal of the government is long-term sustainability and the well-being of its citizens, but corporate heads like Vice President Cheney (Halliburton), Secretary of State Rice (Chevron), Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld (General Instrument Corp.), Treasury Secretary Snow (CSX Corp.) and new Commerce Secretary Gutierrez (Kellogg Co.) were trained to focus on near-future profits while the company is under their leadership.

Government officials tend to seek multiple re-elections and pursue higher offices, but corporate executives will spend four to seven years with a company before seeking leadership positions in another. The success of the company during an executive’s previous tenure determines his next job; hence the concern with short-range, seemingly drastic accomplishments. It is because of this corporate-style governance that we see the shortsighted solutions to long-term problems: taking federal funds to apply to the private school system instead of truly funding and revamping the public education; drilling in arctic preserves and relying on foreign oil instead of funding and encouraging alternative energy supplies; and declaring war on sovereign and resource-rich nations instead of truly combating the expansive problem of global terrorism.

Corporations compete with others in similar industries, whereas in dealing with issues such as terrorism and nuclear proliferation, cooperation is needed. Cooperation, however, does not come free. Dubya and Condi have been tag-teaming the world, globe-trotting to gain support for action and policy against Iran and North Korea because, as we learned last time, executing a military intervention without greater support can cost lives, dollars and political support from the rest of the world. Their approach, however, seems no different than what happened before the invasion of Iraq. In the run up to our last war, numerous attempts were made in front of the United Nations and world allies to have them join a then divided America in dismantling a country for possession of weapons of mass destruction that were to never surface. How can the head of another nation justify sending troops and treasure to maintain peace in an Iraq now more dangerous then before the “end of major combat” when they are excluded from financial benefits of the postwar rebuilding efforts? Not only do policies like no-bid contracts for companies with strong ties to the administration lessen the likelihood of assistance from major European and Asian countries, but they alienate the Middle Eastern nations most integral in dealing with terrorism.

The problems for an electorate facing these disadvantages in leadership style come without the benefit of oversight traditionally associated with the shareholders of a public corporation. In the event of an abysmal financial situation, shareholders can convene to discuss the removal of the executives they deem responsible. With the government, even if there is some catastrophic event that changes the nation’s state of affairs, no transition would take place, at least until the end of the president’s term. Of course impeachment is a possibility, but the chances of that occurring are always slim, as people are afraid to change leadership during war. Even more, this government has the uncanny ability to deftly manipulate the weak spots of the electorate – most notably religion – to keep the country divided on enough fronts to ensure its political stability. What better way to retain the support of the biblical zealots of the Midwest and rural South than to make it seem as if the display of the Ten Commandments or an official ban on gay marriage is of the greatest national priority?

If we are looking forward to a fate similar to the WorldComs, Enrons and Tycos of the world, we are on the right track. Until the day when the majority can dismiss particular government officials with the small inconvenience of a healthy severance pay, the rule of the nation should be left to politicians who are able to put the well-being of the nation before their personal stake in policy.

Wilfred U. Codrington III ’05 sells the president’s stock short.

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