This article originally appeared on PolicyMic on 28 July, 2011
As the 2012 presidential campaign rolls on and the debt debate continues, we continue to hear comparisons equating running America with running a business. Conservatives assert that if we ran America like a well-managed company we would not be in our current economic troubles. The current conservative talking points give the affluent among us nice cuddly names like "job creators," and focus on "fiscal discipline" in government.
Contrary to conservative belief, America should not be run like a business because it is not a business. The main goal in any enterprise is to increase profit. The survival of the company is more important than the well being of its individual employees. In tough times a business can batten down its hatches with relative ease through layoffs, furloughs, cutting hours, and hiring freezes. It can increase efficiency, cut costs, and suspend new investments. Many companies are taking these actions now to survive.
That is not so with America. Americans are not employees able to seek employment elsewhere. They cannot be cut loose by their government, especially not when many of them are already receiving such treatment from employers. Though the long-term health of America is vital, the purpose of this country is to protect and serve its people, not to profit from them or stay in the black while they go under. Sometimes it is necessary to fall into the red.
It was an uncontrollable desire for profit by our biggest firms and banks that plunged us into our current economic recession, not government spending or debt. Spending only increased after these same crippled firms begged government for a bail out. Fiscal discipline was pushed aside as the conservative Bush administration provided the first bailout package. Businesses are laying-off employees, not government. Excessive debt, taxation, and regulation did not cause this problem; high risk, over-leveraging, profit seeking and business excess did.
Conservatives argue average Americans need to endure benefits cuts, tighten their belts, and forgo revenue to decrease the national debt while tax breaks and loopholes continue for "job creators" — the very people who caused the situation in the first place — because doing so might create jobs. Conservatives are willing to support the needs of business over those of the people; they’re willing to let the crew drown to save the ship. If Americans allow them to put government on the chopping block now, there will be no one to stand in the way of further harmful excesses by profit-hoarders in the future.
The claim of "fiscal discipline" by conservatives during the debt ceiling debate should be called into question. Anyone who is willing to drive the country into potential financial Armageddon and risk further negative consequences based upon ideological, not practical, arguments cannot justify a claim for “fiscal discipline.” Government debt needs to be addressed, but that can be done without ruining our credit rating, which would likely serve to increase the debt. America is not a business. It is a country with a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It should stay that way.