Government for Governments Sake

As a small business owner I try not to think about how well our state government functions or as evidenced by our downward spiral; doesn’t function. Governor Granholm’s transparent attempt at last minute budget manipulation; after failing to show any semblance of fiscal leadership, is a stale stunt.  There is no excuse for letting even one day go by that is not focused on reform, while residents and businesses struggle to merely ride this economy out. We can’t blame outsiders for noticing that Michigan has done nothing to make this a state businesses want to come to or stay in.

Our governor’s recent attempts to steer the citizens of Michigan toward breaking her no new taxes pledge for her, brought a line from a movie to mind.  In The Terminator series, Skynet is an artificially intelligent system which became “self aware” and revolted against its creators. Watching well meaning, intelligent people and vast amounts of resources get sucked into the vortex of bad government led me to the concept of “organizational self awareness” as a plausible explanation. This is not unique to government; any organization can be afflicted and it is certainly not a Michigan only problem. Organizational self awareness results when service to the creators (individuals, taxpayers, voters, members) is replaced by service to the interests of the organization itself. Rhetoric passes for leadership, access is denied to those with shallow pockets, problems are postponed, not solved and the status quo is always protected. 

Partisan politics is a byproduct of this trend, as all proposed actions are screened for their effects on party power and influence, not for their potential to benefit the voters. Reform is secondary to protecting turf, securing budgets and banking sound bites for the next campaign. Our governor and legislators have demonstrated that the interests of their party, the preservation of government reach and the demands of the groups who fill their campaign accounts are all more important than improving the state. Organizational self awareness stands in the path of any meaningful change because power is never surrendered, it is only reallocated. Consider the furlough day; the latest temporary fix designed to avoid directly engaging powerful state employee unions. When faced with the challenge to right size government our leaders have decided it would be better (for them) to provide less service for the same amount of money.  There is no business equivalent of organizational self awareness because it could only lead to extinction.  Private business operates on what is left after it provides good or services rather than setting expense levels without considering if enough will be left to deliver what it charged for. Publicly run operations seem to allocate their budgets first to salaries, administrative costs, benefits and facilities, then proclaim that they lack the needed funds to plow streets, educate children, run parks or operate libraries. Government for government’s sake ignores all demands for substantial, forward thinking reform and leads to Michigan as we know it today. No change, no chance, no future.      

James A. Krause … The Dogged One … 2009