The Business of Government

I love baseball. Well, I love the Mets and the Mets play baseball most of the time. This week they have been playing (and beating!) their cross-town rivals: the hated NY Yankees.

The Mets have played second fiddle to the Yankees for most of the 51 years I have been following the Mets. The Yankees are considered Major League Baseball’s most successful franchise and, with a monetary value exceeding a Billion dollars, they are estimated to be the richest team in all of professional sports.

The Yankees are owned by the heirs of George Steinbrenner, creator of the modern Yankees. Steinbrenner took a Yankee team — which had seen its glory days fade away like England’s Empire — back to the top of baseball and created the modern baseball franchise model in the process.

George Steinbrenner was a capitalist and a Republican. He was such a good Republican, he took a hit for Richard Nixon when he was convicted of illegally giving money to Nixon’s 1972 campaign. This is the same campaign that played out on national television in the form of the Watergate scandal.

Steinbrenner was not just a good capitalist, he was a great capitalist; his model of spending money to create a great team was contrary to the baseball business model of the time which was treating players as if they can be replaced at any time and paying them as little as possible. Steinbrenner realized that in order to make money create a winning team he had to spend money — and so he did. He invested in the infrastructure of Yankee Stadium, spending more money to renovate the ancient structure than most teams did to build a new stadium. Steinbrenner took a franchise that had seen its better days and turned it into the envy of every professional sports team owner.

How did he do it? He invested in draft picks. He sought the best players and signed them to the most expensive contracts. He realized, like all good capitalists, that one must invest and spend money to make money. It’s good business.

But it’s not government.

Running government like a business?The Republican Party has screamed for years that the US government must be run as though it is a business. I can hear Ronald Reagan and other Republicans touting the corporate model for how to run America and I totally agree. Unfortunately, the current crop of Republican politicians is  more like the old owners of baseball teams and so unlike George Steinbrenner. They think spending money will not bring economic growth and that it will cause the national debt to increase to the point of no return.

Last week another bridge collapsed. It is estimated that over 25% of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient, with most built during the works programs of the 1930s.

American schools do not fare better than American bridges, with most of the public schools having been built over fifty years ago. The list goes on and on, whether it be the American power grid, the interstate highway system, or the American water treatment system, all are suffering from neglect.

George Steinbrenner and other successful capitalists know that investments in infrastructure, research and development, and human capital must be made for an organization to flourish. It is common sense business practice to spend money on things that will grow a company.

America is just like the 1972 Yankees; many believe our better days are in the past. The difference, however, is that  instead of a George Steinbrenner driving a team towards success, America has an obstructionist GOP congress who believe in just the opposite. Instead of following a model of excellence, the Republican led congress would rather America chug along, just as owners of baseball teams did many years ago.

It takes vision to be a leader, whether it’s running a baseball team or running a government — and it is very obvious to anyone who drives over  the pot holed interstates around the country that the Republican Party, the party of austerity, has no vision for the country. Their ideology is blocking good business practices — contrary to what the best capitalists would gladly do to ensure that his company, his country be the best in the world.