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What you get from people who want to run the government like a business

Whenever anyone talks about how the federal government should be “run like a business,” the scenario that runs through my head is something exactly like this:

Asked how many DHS was anticipating, Wolf didn’t have an answer and suggested this was the Department of Health and Human Services’ territory. “We do anticipate the number will grow; I don’t have an exact figure for you, though,” Wolf said.

“You’re head of Homeland Security, and your job is to keep us safe,” Kennedy responded, asking him again what the estimates might be. Wolf talked around the question, which led Kennedy to say, “Don’t you think you ought to check on that, as the head of Homeland Security?”

“We will,” Wolf responded. He referred to a task force that is working on that issue.

“I’m all for committees and task forces,” Kennedy said. “I think you ought to know that answer.”

Things didn’t get much better from there.

This exchange is exactly the sort of thing you get with people who think government should be run like a business.

Think of any corporate meeting in which everyone in the room is heads-down on their laptops, and all the remote attendees have their video turned off and their audio muted until someone mentions their name and they answer “Sorry, could you repeat that?” because they weren’t really listening.

I’ve been that person plenty of time, because despite everyone’s pretensions, the stuff being discussed in these meeting is rarely ever high-stakes. Don’t know the exact status of that Q3 roadmap deliverable? “Let me check with the team and circle back to you on that” will suffice. The person presenting is probably just reading the bullet points off their slide deck anyway, and the whole thing is performative.

So, no—I definitely do not want the government to be run like a business, because the stakes are actually high, and peoples’ lives are at risk.