Running Government Like a Business

By Senator Mike Folmer

How many times have you heard the statement government should run like a business?  While I appreciate the sentiment, government was never meant to be efficient.  The checks and balances of our constitutional republic are designed for deliberation, not quick decisions.

Nonetheless, government needs to be more sensitive to the taxpayers who foot the bills.  When I was a produce broker, I knew how many tomatoes I had to sell to keep the lights and heat on, pay employees, and pay myself. Believe me, there were times I didn’t sell enough and I didn’t get paid.

Government doesn’t have the same motivation.  It’s why so few – if any – government programs have ever been eliminated. If a business can’t control expenses, it goes out of business.  If it can’t compete, it doesn’t survive.  When government agencies are faced with similar challenges, the solutions are quite different.

The United States Postal Service has had record losses – more than $18 billion annually and over $5 billion in just one quarter.  Its market share over the past five years has declined by more than 43 billion pieces, a 20 percent drop. What if UPS or Fed-Ex posted those same losses? They would likely go out of business. They would be unable to maintain the status quo and would have to change their business plans to stay in business. If the Postal Service were run like a corporation, it would cut costs and enhance services. Unfortunately, the Postal Service is run like a government bureaucracy…costs are increased and services are cut.

According to a recent USA Today analysis, American households are now on the hook for over half a million dollars ($534,000) as their share to pay the country’s $61.6 trillion debt and unfunded obligation costs. A trillion has twelve zeros!

Before creating any new government program or expanding existing ones, we need to consider the oceans of red ink drowning existing programs. Consider some of these funding shortfalls:  Medicare, $24.8 trillion; Social Security, $21.4 trillion; federal debt, $9.4 trillion; military retirement/disability benefits, $3.6 trillion; federal employee retirement benefits, $2 trillion; and state, local government obligations, $5.2 trillion.

Consider the alternatives – when government has a problem, it preserves programs and too often turns to taxpayers to pay in the form of higher taxes.  Businesses can also be mandated to pay.

As former President Reagan once said:  “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size.  Government programs, once launched, never disappear.  Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!”