January 28, 2017

Exactly like a badly run business

“The president, he’s not focused on statistics as much as he is on whether or not the American people are doing better as a whole,” Spicer said.

He went on to admonish “Washington” for fixating on numbers and forgetting “the faces and the families and the businesses that are behind those numbers.” 

Bully for Trump for caring about helping real people (people with faces!) rather than statistics (notoriously lacking in faces). But numbers are the best tool we have for assessing whether the administration actually lives up to its promise to make sure “the American people are doing better as a whole.”

If you pulled this kind of stunt in business — arguing that, say, growth targets or other quantifiable metrics don’t matter, and only some ineffable sensation of “success” does — you’d probably fail.

With Ross as a possible exception, Trump’s personnel decisions also bear many of the hallmarks of badly run companies.

He’s made hiring decisions based not on qualifications or experience, but on whether candidates are members of his family or have the right “look.” Funny facial hair, inadequate height and absence of “swagger” reportedly disqualified some contenders.

Addressing bureaucratic bloat with a chainsaw rather than a scalpel isn’t leadership; it’s laziness. Yet that’s how his administration has thus far approached regulation, too.

Rather than thoughtfully assessing rules and regulations coming down the pike — by, say, conducting a cost-benefit analysis, as you might in a real-life business — Trump halted them across the board. They include one related to keeping airplanes from crashing. (It’s about inspecting aircraft fuselages for cracks.) 

Finally, Trump has recently committed to spending billions of dollars on pet projects that are essentially expensive solutions to problems that don’t exist: a border wall with Mexico, despite the fact that we’ve seen a net outflow of unauthorized Mexican immigrants in recent years, and a “voter fraud” investigation into the “millions” of illegal votes that he believes — with zero evidence — were cast in an election he won.
Again, hard to imagine that such costly, low-upside executive windmill-chasing would fly at a competitive business.

Needless to say, there are major differences between running a business and running a government; it’s a myth that aptitude at one necessarily translates to aptitude at the other.
But with ineptitude, maybe it’s a different story.
 Trump’s government looks an awful lot like a badly run business

Some feel that journalism would be better served by ignoring such shiny objects. But the shallowness of Trump’s preferred form of communication indicates deeper things. His mind seems perfectly suited to a medium that rewards impulsiveness, that ignores fact-checking and that encourages incivility. Those are not generally the traits we hope for in a new president.

And Trump’s use of Twitter raises the prospect of a serious abuse of power. A private citizen with 22 million followers (as Trump has) can be a vindictive jerk, attacking the owner of the Chicago Cubs, the head of the United Steelworkers or a Gold Star family by name. A president with 22 million followers, including the shock troops of Internet bullying, can destroy an individual’s life as surely as can targeting by the FBI or the IRS.

At moments of frustration, Trump will be sorely tempted to attack specific people on Twitter. But a government official should not be allowed to take the reputation or peace of any citizen without due process. It is the president’s job to enforce laws without distinction, not to choose specific men and women for harm. This would be the practice of personal rule, and a scary detour toward Putinism.

Why a tweeting president is so bad for our politics

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