“Government should run more like a business”

How many times have we heard this line, “government should run more like a business”?

Unfortunately the line is usually effective in ridiculing government budgets and programs even though those who use it often don’t have the foggiest idea of how businesses are run.

For instance, because our federal government borrows money to operate we’re told by faux fiscal hawks that businesses have to live within their means and so should government.  But that is absolutely not the way most large businesses operate.  These big guys and even small guys are always borrowing money to operate, innovate and expand.  They borrow money or sell stocks so they can better serve their customers.

Recently in South Carolina the General Assembly voted not to pass on any additional premium costs to the workers and retirees while at the same time giving the workers a well-deserved raise after years of stagnant wages. 

Then the state’s Budget and Control Board, a uniquely South Carolina 5-headed administrative budget oversight committee, voted earlier this month to make state workers pay half of the increase in their health insurance premiums.  A battle has erupted between the Legislature and Governor Nikki Haley, who lead the charge on the Budget and Control Board to make workers and retirees pay more.

Now into the controversy steps the executive committee of the state’s Republican Party which is supporting Governor Haley over the Republican-dominated state legislator.  The executive committee adopted a resolution that says, “the state government ought to operate more like a private business than a bureaucracy.”

Well, this 90-something person group obviously doesn’t know that many businesses pay all of the health insurance premiums for their employees.  These businesses consider such an employee benefit part of the compensation package.  Is this GOP executive committee suggesting that such businesses aren’t operating like a private business?

But the real problem with the “government should run more like a business” line is that government, unlike most businesses, doesn’t have a single decision-maker.  The South Carolina General Assembly is a 172-member body each with a vote.  Decisions are reached through compromise and consensus. 

In the matter of these insurance premiums, the Legislature strongly believed that not passing on additional health insurance premium costs to its workers was in the best interest of the business called state government and its hard workers.  That’s called running government like a business.
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