by Robert Elisberg
Political writer and screenwriter
One of the great charms of the Republican Party is when they start comparing government to something it's not.
One of the most common examples is when some corporate CEO decides to leapfrog the whole quaint concept of "experience" and try as their first political office to become a state governor. "It's time we had someone to run this state like a business," is the cry. "I know about creating jobs. I did it for 10 years as head of Versacom."
Except, of course, running a business is absolutely nothing like being governor. When you're governor, you have half the state disagreeing with you, half the legislature actively working against you, and a judiciary overturning your efforts. When you're a CEO, you give an order and it's followed.
"I'm not a career politician" is another call we keep hearing, from both parties yes, but more so by Republicans because conservatives have an innate dislike of government and therefore like to distance themselves from it - "it" being the job in government they're running for. Yes, that's odd, but we'll let it pass.
"I'm not a career politician" sounds great, at least until you, well...think. If you're sued, you want a career lawyer. If you need an operation, you want a career surgeon. If you have a child in school, you want a career teacher. For goodness sake, if you dine out and order a plate of spaghetti, you want a professional waiter. But someone who can make political decisions that will impact lives - yeah, give that job to the amateurs.
And now, with Republicans feeling their oats and swaggering, we get to hear another of the Famous Republican Faux Analogies.
"We're going to do what families and businesses all over this country have already had to do," said Republican Brian Bosma, about to become Speaker of the House in Indiana, repeating the mantra that Republicans have spouted for years. "And that is live within their means."
It sounds so great when Republicans say this. So tough, so fiscally sound. Mind you they never said it when George Bush turned a $127 billion surplus into a $482 billion deficit. And over the last 70 years, when six administrations increased the national debt - and all were Republican - Republicans never complained about debt then. But...okay, we'll let that pass, too.
We'll just take the statement at face value.
"We're going to do what families and businesses all over this country have already had to do. And that is live within their means."
Okay. Republicans want to suggest that government should be judged the same as households. Fair enough. Here then are some other things that families "already had to do":
Ensure all medical costs of family members.
Provide food for their household without charge.
Protect the well-being care of grandparents.
Guarantee the education of their children.
Give free housing and clothe family members.
Pay their children allowance each week.
And businesses? They -
Provide health care.
Allow two weeks vacation.
If Republicans are okay with government guaranteeing all those things for every American, too - great! If Republicans actually want to do what families and businesses "all over this country have already had to do," then, yes (!), let's compare government to families and business all the way!
One caveat: "All the way" means that government also has to do some other things that families and businesses do, as well:
Spend the evening with your spouse's friend who really annoys you.
Break up fights between siblings and tell Jimmy to "stop looking at your sister."
Clean up after your kids' vomit.
Get rid of anyone over the age of 65.
And to be fair, families in turn have to start doing what governments "already" have to do-
Take in strangers who show up to live with you.
Print money and back it all up with your own savings as collateral.
Patrol the neighborhood, put out fires, and deliver all the mail.
Lend your books to anyone who wants to borrow them.
Repair your neighbors' plumbing and driveways.
Build supersonic jets. Train people to fly them. Pay them.
And on and on and on.
It's ludicrous, of course. And yet, there it is -- once again -- Republicans trying to compare government to something it's not.
The problem is that conservatives generally don't like "big government," which ultimately is government. And not liking it, don't understand it. And so time and again, they keep trying to compare it to something it's not. Keep trying to get it to be something it's not.
Government does not operate like your family. Government is not run like a business. Government protects the greater good of all, with the ever-changing consent of those it serves.
If you don't like government, fine. If you don't understand government, fine. But at least do the decent thing and get out of the way of those who do.
However if you do actually want government to operate on the same standards as families, okay. But it's going to be one huge mess when everyone in the country leaps onto the table for that last piece of pie.