I love US politics. It is much more fun than the boring stuff we have to watch up here in Canada. Mostly because Canadian politics have only two sides to them 1) insisting that some Government Cabinet Minister resign, or 2) actually discussing the issue intelligently.

In the US, they don’t have that problem. It’s all about the sound bite and how badly you can make your opponent look like an idiot.  Occasionally however there are tidbits of truth that can be gleamed out of the back and forth parlance of sound bite wars that make up the American political landscape.

Take this gem for example. Romney wants to put Big Bird on the unemployment line. [link]

The reason: the “Sesame Street” resident is not important enough for America to go into debt with China to subsidize him and his PBS friends.

Now what this tells me is that Romney, for all his experience in Government, doesn’t actually get government but that he does get big business.

Here is why: Whenever private companies start getting themselves into financial trouble there are a number of things that characteristically go first. In order these are

  1. Succession Planning
  2. Training
  3. Expense Accounts / Travel
  4. Capital Improvements
  5. Office Supplies
  6. Documentation
  7. Quality Assurance
  8. Employee Perks
  9. Employee Benefits
  10. Employees

Letting go of VPs, Directors, and CxOs are so far down the list as to be typically immune from most remediation actions during these times.

If you listen closely to what Romney is saying, the essence of it reads like a chapter from the big book of business downsizing whose goal is to protect the strategic apex of the organization while gutting everything that defines the business in the first place.

While private companies have a view towards their ‘legacy’, the reality is that companies rise and fall all the time. There are very few companies that survive the typical life span of our human existence never mind perpetuation across centuries. Most will typically be sold off or merged. While the customers and employees of these organizations may have short-lived survivors guilt over the downfall, in the long-run no one is really going to lose too much sleep if a company like RIM suddenly goes belly up.

Public organizations however represent the essence of how a society defines itself culturally. Successful governments are those that understand the big book of business downsizing needs to be turned on its head. Instead of cutting programs that chip aware at social and cultural development, governments need to be investing in public capability reinforced though cultural identity.

You can’t do that by gutting programs that teach, challenge, and re-enforce ethics, morals, knowledge, and understanding. PBS does that – Hollywood doesn’t.  PBS also does that irrespective of a profit motive. You don’t see the SyFy channel rushing to put programs like NOVA on air.

Government needs to be the champion of programs that reinforce cultural identity otherwise it will be defined for them by the likes of Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and Apple. It needs to give people a voice. It needs to raise up the quality assurance standards by which society is based, not tear them down. It needs to promote a citizenship that is knowledgeable, capable, determined, and financial driven to bootstrap itself into the next generation of human evolution – not languish in the tar pits of yesterday’s hopelessness.

Big Bird is more than just an overgrown thanks-giving day’s feast. He is a symbol of the prosperity that is inherent in the system for which western economies base their ability to thrive and grow. He evolves, learns, grows, faces confrontation, overcomes adversary. He is the center of a community around which becomes fractured and diminished with his passing if such were allowed to occur.

I’m not suggesting that Big Bird must be saved as an icon. But the values for which Big Bird, PBS, and all those host of other programs out there stand for as a rock which our global culture depends must be preserved. You don’t gut programs like these without having an absolutely rock solid foundation for their succession. To do otherwise leaves a power vacuum that will be filled.

In filling that vacuum, the question government needs to asking itself is:

Do you feel lucky? Well? Do you – Punk?

— Kevin Feenan

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