And He’s Staging a Hostile Takeover of USA, Inc.
As I watched the experts debate Trump’s “Monday Night Massacre”, I was struck by their efforts to describe the events of the previous 48 hours. In just his eighth day in office the new president had set a record with thirty Executive Orders. Directives that were to intended to obliterate Barack Obama’s eight years in office. Trump’s orders had people protesting in the streets, they were chastised on Capitol Hill and overturned in the Circuit Courts. And while this was going on he was purging key government agencies of their staffs while stocking the Oval Office with a small group of confidants. As the pundits struggled to put all of this into some kind of political perspective it became obvious that traditional political-speak was inadequate. The language was inappropriate because Donald Trump’s presidency isn’t about governing. To Donald Trump the United States is one big, failing business and he believes it’s his job to save it. Starting with a hostile takeover.
Shareholders vs. Management
According to Investopedia a ‘Hostile Takeover’ is the acquisition of one company (called the target company) by another (called the acquirer) that is accomplished by going directly to the company’s shareholders or fighting to replace management to get the acquisition approved. The key characteristic of a hostile takeover is that the target company’s management does not want the deal to go through. Make no mistake that the shareholders in this case are American businessmen. Trump sees them as the stakeholders, as speculators who have invested in this country and the ones who are now entitled to a better ROI. Management in this case is every state and federal bureaucrat with more than fifteen minutes of government experience or that is out of earshot; it’s anyone that isn’t gathered around his desk when he signs an Executive Order.
US Citizens Are Customers
The rest of us are just customers and consumers; of which a “new one is born every minute”. Some of us are valued customers; members of large groups that hold big sway and must be carefully messaged. We need to be flattered and we need to be sold. We need to hear the promise that we will be great again. And others of us are dregs who don’t buy and who only take. We’re the low-lifes that denigrate the brand and tarnish the American image. We aren’t great at all. And woe to those who fall into this category; we get no promises and we have no privileges. The best that we can hope for is to be tolerated, the worst is to be shunned and banished.
The Country vs. Corporation Conundrum
This is where things get real tricky because this is the dark side of the moon, a place that none of us have ever been. The United States is by design, by definition and on its best day a non-profit organization. It isn’t really supposed to make money, it’s supposed to make enough money to cover its cost of operation but surpluses are an accident. Oh, were we to be that good or that lucky. The fact is that we’re nowhere near break-even and haven’t been for a long time. If we were an actual corporation we would have been shut down years ago; because the US runs at an incredible deficit. We are indebted to some of our best friends and worst enemies because their investments keep us operating. But as a truly for-profit entity – we suck. And this is where Trump’s opportunity lies.
Donald Trump has convinced his people that we can be “better” we can be “great” again. These are purely subjective terms but valid if you can create the perception that as a country and as a society we are failing…that we are “a disaster”. And he has spent the last 2 years doing just that. He has each and every one of us wondering, even just a little, if there isn’t some merit to his “drain the swamp”, “ban the lobbyists”, “build a wall” strategies. That maybe, just maybe, if we have a businessman running the country we can actually get better and be great. It’s hard to argue against something that’s never been done before in times like we’ve never seen. So, many of us keep letting the days roll by, waiting, to see if this businessman-cum-president might actually be right.
There’s No Compassion in a P & L
Look at any corporate balance sheet or P & L and you will not find general account codes for empathy, compassion or sympathy. Charity is there but it’s leveraged by the opportunity to take a write-off. The more profit-driven the business, the less empathetic it can afford to be. That is the difference between corporate governance and a democratic republic. It’s what separates business people and politicians. Many people in the Red states believe this country has been far too benevolent for far too long. That the US has become soft in its effort to support moral causes near and far. They believe that we’re better served by hewing to the rules of the free market, the laws of Shark Tank and the sentiment of The Apprentice. I guess we’re going to find out.
I don’t know how this is going to end; I do know that the ability to affect it is beyond me. And I don’t have the energy to argue. Facebook is a cluster and the venom it contains is toxic. So instead I observe and comment; I try hard to be objective. But with regards to this president and his strategy I can only say, be very careful what you wish for.