Since the Post won't run my reply a recent op-ed about the Ex-Im Bank, I'll publish it here: Huge multi-national corporations like to preach from the "small business" bible when it comes to the Export-Import bank. Unfortunately, most of the Ex-Im propaganda about how "small business" benefits crumbles under scrutiny.
A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with such a devastating cost that it is tantamount to defeat. Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has been victorious in some way; however, the heavy toll negates any sense of achievement or profit (another term for this would be "hollow victory"). — from Wikipedia
I keep some things in a little box in my bedroom. Some Navy and submarine mementos, some letters, favorite photos of the kids that mean things only to me.
In that box are a few political reminders, too. Some Reagan campaign buttons from 1980 and 1984, Jack Kemp stuff from 1988, and a series of Republican lapel pins, buttons, and ID cards from 1980 through 1996.
Yes, I was a proud Republican for a long time. An old high school friend of mine liked to mock me for introducing myself as a Republican. It's what I led with.
In 1996, I struggling to keep a little company afloat while working full time as an IS manager at a small healthcare company in St. Louis. I was also writing an online column three times a week. Financially, things weren't so hot.
But politically, things were looking up. Republicans had taken the House of Representatives for the first time in my life. Democrat President Clinton was at the bottom of the polls. The Democrats had abandoned HillaryCare, and real welfare reform was assured.
Then, the Republicans nominated the only man alive who could lose to a weakened Bill Clinton. When Tony Bennett said, "We win!" at Clinton's election night party in 1996, something came apart in my mind. Or in my heart.
Because of that troubled, pained revelation in 1996, I could feel Dan Riehl's pain last Tuesday as the Cochran-McDaniel fiasco peaked.
I honestly hate seeing a thread of tweets like these. Dan's a good guy who believes in liberty. As you'll see, he's a true Reagan Democrat who bought Reagan's message of freedom and liberty and believe Reagan's message was the Republican message. Like many of us, Dan has realized that the GOP never bought Reagan's message. Republicans simply rode out the storm until Reagan rode off into the sunset.
Today's GOP = mediocre collection of middle managers not good enough for corp America, so they make government and growing it their biz
— DanRiehl (@DanRiehl) June 26, 2014
As a kid GOP = boring tight-assed old white guys who exploited middle class for $. Reagan changed my view. But that's over now.
— DanRiehl (@DanRiehl) June 26, 2014
Can't have GOP unity as there's no unifying principle that they stand for consistently that matters outside the corporate boardroom
— DanRiehl (@DanRiehl) June 26, 2014
Money talks, purpose walks.
I can't support a party that would do what it did to keep Thad Cochran in office. As an original Reagan Democrat. I'm done.
— DanRiehl (@DanRiehl) June 25, 2014
Seriously, if you're at all genuinely conservative and you keep voting for this GOP, you're either stupid or like being abused
— DanRiehl (@DanRiehl) June 25, 2014
So McConnell and the GOP establishment made their wish come true in Mississippi. They sold their souls to crush a purpose-driven conservative and preserve a fossil for another round of fundraising with the Chamber of Commerce.
At what price? From Politico:
The scope of the effort to suppress activist-backed candidates has been broader and costlier than is widely understood, covering at least 20 House and Senate primaries from North Carolina to California, and from coastal Mississippi to the outer tip of Long Island. The loose coalition of establishment forces encompasses two dozen advocacy groups, industry associations and super PACs that have raised and spent millions on behalf of Washington’s chosen candidates.
That's why I'm taking it easy for the 2014 election. I'll support Tony Pousosa for St. Louis County Executive and a few other excellent candidates for various offices. I'll vote, but a lot of my votes will go to the candidate I deem most likely to maximize my freedom and power, not the candidate the GOP chose for me. And when I talk to people, I'll encourage them to look beyond the establishment parties we've been told are the only choices.
In Mississippi, the Republican power decided that crushing a principled grassroots candidate was more important than saving the republic. They won that battle. And they might win a few more this year. For many reasons, I think the GOP will do well in 2014's general election, too. Might even win the Senate. I won't be surprised at all if November brings news of the end of the tea party (again), and the return of the Republican Establishment.
But 2016 could be a very different story. Between 2014 and 2016, about 4 million reliable voters will die. About 2.8 million of them are reliable Republican votes. The deceased will be replaced by about 5.8 million new voters from a generation with a strong libertarian streak that grows stronger every day.
This Chamber of Commerce GOP of the 2010s has given Millennials no reason to consider the Republican party its political home. In Mississippi, the Republicans validated Millennial's distrust of institutions. And in 2016, Millennials will decide everything.
The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him. — Plutarch
So, congratulations Mitch McConnell and Thad Cochran. One more victory like this and it'll be the end of you.
You might want to read:
Before we get to politics, I want to tell you about a business exercise.
The Universal Veto Game
Sometimes my job as a consultant involves helping people decide what to do when no ideas have a consensus. Sure, someone in a hierarchy can dictate terms, but dictated solutions don't really work in business. Cooperation and collaboration are too important for success, and dictated terms are usually executed half-assed.
So we play this game. It's called the Universal Veto game.
Everybody in the meeting (usually 15-20 people) writes one project they'd like to do on a 3x5 Post-It note. Then they write another. And another until everybody has 10 notes and 10 pet projects.
Next, each person selects three "cannot live without" projects from his stack and posts those three Post-Its on a wall.
Then, we take 10 minutes to walk along the wall and read all of the projects.
At the end of the 10 minutes, everyone is authorized to remove any Post-Its they don't like for any reason. Everyone has a veto over every idea.
We usually end up with 3 or 4 Post-Its that no one objects to. At least a few people consider these remaining ideas a top three priority for the company. By focusing on any one of those three projects, management and the project's champions can count on broad support and no strong opposition.
Now, imagine if we brought together 15-20 representatives of various "warring" political factions in the USA and played the same game. You'd see Post-Its that say things like "Kill the Rich" and "Outlaw Abortion" and "Ban Guns." There'd be ideas like a balanced budget amendment, the fair tax, flat tax, and $25 minimum wage.
But there would be a few ideas on that wall of Post-Its, too. "End Crony Capitalism," "Abolish Corporate Welfare," "Stop Spying on Americans," "Audit the Federal Reserve."
I bet if we brought together hard left Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and hard-right Republicans and Libertarians and Occupy Wall Streeters and Focus on the Family and whoever, those last four ideas would remain.
That's the new political dichotomy in America. The old left vs. right, Democrat vs. Republican, progressive vs. conservative, atheist vs. evangelical dichotomies aren't dead--they just don't matter right now.
Those old dichotomies that you and I grew up fighting don't matter because none of us is in control of the debate. We're not allowed to fight our cherished old battles because we've lost control of the debate switch.
The new dichotomy in America is Elite vs. Plebeian. It's the Political Class vs. the Subject Class. And it's the only dichotomy that matters.
At some point, we are called to fight the battle the new dichotomy poses. That might mean a new party that includes some former enemies. And that new Plebeian party will have a focus as narrow as the Republican Party did when Abe Lincoln was elected. Imagine a platform with these four planks:
- Crush crony capitalism
- Abolish corporate welfare
- End warrantless domestic spying
- Subject the Federal Reserve to regular public audits
I suspect such a platform would generate broad support. We'd knock off these projects in fairly short order. We'd then deal with the unforeseen consequences of our ideas. (They'll come. Believe me.)
Then we can go back to our old battles, but those battles will be less bitter because we'll be fighting against our brothers and sisters in arms.
Would you tear down any of these those four planks? If so, please tell me why.
St. Louisan Eric Greitens did more before graduating from college than most people do in a lifetime. And, as if to insult us all, after college, Eric became a Navy SEAL. In his remarkable book, The Heart and the Fist: The education of a humanitarian, the making of a Navy SEAL, Greitens tells the story of a man who seems too good to be true. Seriously. And the book left me with two big impressions--probably the wrong ones, but that's how I am.
What Is a Humanitarian Warrior?
Before fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, Greitens (like "brightens" with a "g") performed humanitarian work in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Bolivia. He boxed at Duke University and won boxing championships for Oxford during his time as a Rhodes scholar.
By age 25, Greitens built a resume that puts most people's to shame. Then he really got to work.
In his humanitarian work, which continued during his years at Oxford, Greitens recognized that handing out food after human barbarism isn't enough.
Nations are not parents to the world’s people . Yet the basic fact remains: we live in a world marked by violence, and if we want to protect others, we sometimes have to be willing to fight. We all understand at the most basic level that caring requires strength as well as compassion.
Today, Greitens runs The Mission Continues, a non-profit that helps post-911 veterans adjust to civilian life by demanding more of the veterans, not less.
Like Viktor Frankl, Greitens recognizes the need for purpose in life.
In addition to “Thank you,” they also had to hear , “We still need you.” They had to know that we viewed them not as problems, but as assets; that we saw them not as weak, but as strong . They had to know that we were glad they were home , that we needed their strength here at home, that we needed them to continue to serve here at home.
It's no wonder that Time Magazine picked Eric Greitens as one of the 100 Most Influential people on earth.
How Do You Bureaucratize Business?
I've been out of the Navy since 1994. Or 1997, if you count my reserve time. I'd almost forgotten how infuriatingly cautious and wasteful the Department of Defense can be. Greitens reminded me.
Many great people and great warriors work in the Department of Defense, but too often, men and women dressed in camouflage sit at computers alongside civilian contractors and send e-mails and reports and briefs in circles around what is the largest and often one of the most risk-averse, uncreative, inefficient bureaucracies in the world.
Of course, Greitens never worked for a big corporation. Or a small one that wanted to look big.
In my 20 years working the private sector, I've noticed that small and midsize companies that sell mostly to other companies come to resemble their largest customers. I noticed this at a small software company in the late 1990s. After we landed a deal with SBC, then the country's second largest local phone company, we reorganized into a mini version of that behemoth. We complicated our organization chart and added new layers of management. We instilled inefficiencies and risk-aversion to impress the client.
It didn't work.
After we reorganized to look like SBC, we lost the SBC business. We had become as slow and awkward and unresponsive as the SBC division we were supposed to replace. Before we reorganized to look like SBC, that small software company had been the fastest-growing company in its field. Only four years later, it folded.
I've seen a similar pattern in other companies, both as an employee and as a consultant. And I've seen the consequences.
The more a vendor resembles the client, the less value the vendor delivers. Companies outsource certain products and services for a reason: client companies recognize that smaller companies can run circles around larger companies in particular areas. A small ad agency can produce and launch a great new campaign in less time than it takes a big company to call a meeting to plan its meetings.
Greitens described the frustration of working for a bureaucracy:
I knew that we weren’t going to change the world buying a few bags of fruit, but the risk-averse mindset of much of the military bureaucracy can often prevent leaders from taking even small commonsense steps.
Pay attention to Greitens' use of the word "leaders."
As a Navy SEAL, Greitens learned that you can't always wait for orders. You can't wait for some desk jockey to substitute his guess for yours. Leadership means taking appropriate action.
In The Heart and the Fist, Greitens describes how he watched the US destroy its credibility with the people and local government in Kenya because no one from the President on down had the guts to order the removal of a forklift the Navy got stuck on a boat ramp. The ramp was critical for launching and recovering small boats. Kenyans in the area depended on those boats for essential goods and services, but a screw-up by a Navy contractor put the ramp out of service for months. Everyone knew how to fix the problem, but no one wanted to take responsibility.
It became clear that no one had actually ordered us to leave the forklift in the bay. Instead, what had happened was that people had started asking for permission to move the forklift, and then a few dozen e-mails bounced from Manda Bay to Nairobi, to Bahrain to D.C. to San Diego to Djibouti, and back to Manda Bay, but everyone was waiting for permission from someone else.
I drove back to see the captain again. “Sir, this forklift has been an issue for you for far too long. So let’s get it out of your port.”
“So, we can move it?”
“Yes sir, feel free to move it as you see best, and of course my men and I will help you to move it, if you’d like for us to do so. And this, sir, is for you.”
When I complain about lack of decision-making among today's MBA business executives, my wise boss points to the turning point: when the World War II guys retired.
In a major war, the troops-to-bureaucrat ratio skyrockets compared to peace time. And troops at war have one goal: get home. They learn to make decisions and act on those decisions. They prepare best they can, then act.
I agree that the military (outside the Pentagon) prepares leaders for decisive action, but I think there's something larger at play here--something learned from the Zelig-like behavior of some small and medium companies.
What If Government Is The Only Customer?
If I'm right about companies morphing into miniature versions of the bureaucratic, risk-averse customers they sell to, then it makes sense that companies of all sizes would begin to resemble government--the most risk-averse, inefficient, wasteful entity on earth.
In healthcare, for instance, government is now the only customer. Private healthcare companies will quickly reorganize themselves to mimic the Veterans' Administration--with predictably deadly results.
In the fascist states of the 20th century, the line between government and corporations wore remarkably thin. Pharmaceutical giant Bayer, for example, used concentration camp victims for human drug experiments.
As crony capitalism infects more of the US economy, companies large and small will continue to become less efficient, more regulated, more afraid of change, more resistant to innovation, and more willing to let government dictate its practices.
One reason I left the Navy was because I was tired of the bureaucratic nonsense that thwarts innovation. That's why I spend so much time warning about crony capitalism. No one wants bureaucracy to become the national pastime.
Except the government.
More about Eric Greitens
The Manhattan Institute for Social Entrepreneurship recognized him as one of the five leading social entrepreneurs in America. Major League Baseball and PEOPLE Magazine named Eric an “All-Star Among Us”, and the National Conference on Citizenship named him its “Citizen Soldier of the Year”. In 2008 the President personally presented Eric with the President’s Volunteer Service Award, and in 2012 Eric was awarded the Charles Bronfman Prize, recognizing his inspiring national and global leadership.
Read all about Eric at The Mission Continues.
From the "see, I told ya so" file . . . Rockwood NEA President Suzanne Dotta worked hard to influence the recent school board election. The candidates Ms. Dotta pushed won.
I expect Ms. Dotta to teach Rockwood's professionals how to game the system for personal gain at taxpayer expense.
If you'd like to question this apparent quid pro quo, the next Rockwood Board meeting is April 24. Meetings are held at Crestview Middle School, located at 16025 Clayton Road in Ellisville. Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m.