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What “Running the Government Like a Business” Would Mean for Republicans

Imagine if the 2012 presidential election had actually been run like a business.

Christopher Petrella reruns the 2012 presidential election according to the “business model” of representation. The results would not please Republicans.

If there’s one conclusion to be drawn from the last presidential campaign – or from the endless partisan disputes over the so-called “fiscal cliff” – or from the recently ignited debates over the debt-ceiling – it’s this: Republicans want the government to behave more like a business. Hell, Mitt Romney knelt at the altar of Freud last August when he suggested that he and his running mate would “get America on track again . . . [by] making sure this company deals with its challenges.” And just a few weeks ago on “Face the Nation,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stressed that spending cuts now represent the only feasible solution to so-called “large government” inefficiency.

Sadly, we on the Left spend far too much time combating – and thereby legitimating – the Right’s foolish ideologies. What if, just for a moment, we chose to honor the Right’s dream of running the government like a business? Since enfranchisement represents the bedrock of our democracy – that is, the foundation of our government – then let’s see what happens when business values are applied to presidential elections.

In for-profit, publicly-traded companies, for instance, shareholder influence is reflected by the number of shares purchased and owned. That is, the more an individual invests in a company by way of shares, the more weight that shareholder has in steering the direction of that company.

One share, one vote. Right?

Now, imagine if the 2012 presidential election had actually been run like a business. Suppose for a moment that voter influence in the last election had been weighted in accordance with the state-by-state proportion of taxes paid to Washington vs. receipts from Washington. Applying the shareholder representation model to the 2012 presidential election would simply mean that those who contribute more in taxes – on a state-by-state basis – relative to what they receive in aid, should enjoy greater electoral influence. After all, you get what you pay for!

Using data from the Tax Foundation’s 2007 study entitled “Federal Taxes Paid vs. Federal Spending Received by State (2005)” I applied this formula to general election results. That is, I weighted each vote in accordance with the rate of spending-to-benefits for each state. Here’s an example: Nevada receives only 65 cents back from Washington for every tax dollar it sends. Under this formula, therefore, all votes cast in Nevada are weighted at +35 percent. Here’s another example: Hawaii receives an astounding $1.44 from Washington for every dollar it offers in tax revenue. According to the same formula, then, all votes cast in Hawai’i are weighted at -44 percent.

If Republicans truly want the government to operate more like a business, then so be it. Had the logic of shareholder representation been applied to the last general election then President Obama would have won the popular vote not by 4.7 million, as he did, but rather by 6.3 million. If that’s not a democratic mandate, then I don’t know what is.

So, next time your Republican uncle wishes the government were run more like a business, just remind him what’s at stake for his party in the next election cycle.

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