Business Experience

Just knowing that Mayor Cory Booker, a shinning example of a quality public servant and possible future presidential prospect, is campaigning for the Obama Administration makes today better than it otherwise would have been had I not know.

During a stop in New Hampshire this week, the good mayor took on the idea that presidential candidates must have business experience, or in the case of Mitt Romney, experience in firing lots of people for a living, in order to occupy the Oval Office.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, campaigning in New Hampshire for President Obama, lit into one of Republican Mitt Romney’s main arguments for his candidacy: his business experience. [...]

There is no natural correlation between private sector business experience and how you’re going to do,” said Booker. “Unfortunately New Jersey is seeing that right now with the private sector business experience of our former governor [Jon Corzine] and the challenges that he’s facing right now.” [...]

“Is it the private sector business experience of a Bernie Madoff?” he said, referencing the jailed investment magnate. “Now I’m not comparing Romney to those folks with all due respect, but Abraham Lincoln, one of our greatest presidents, was a failure at business. FDR didn’t have private sector business experience but did a great job. John F. Kennedy was a phenomenal president that didn’t have business experience.”

The notion that you must have business experience to run for the presidency stems from the idea that business is always run better than government. That business is efficient and effective, while government is bloated and ineffective.

The truth is bad management is bad management, whether its public or private. The real difference between the two is that public managers are accountable to the public while private managers are accountable only to a board of directors or shareholders. Shareholders and directors expect ever-higher profits at the cost of their own moral fiber, while voters expect competent governance at the cost of their tax dollars.

The code of ethics governing the two are incompatible, and we shouldn't pretend that they are. Efficiency should be a concern for public managers, and all available evidence suggests efficiency is an integral value of the Obama Administration, but only in the interest of effectively using taxpayer dollars. Not in the interest of turning a profit on the backs of others.