Trump’s not acting like a businessman, he’s acting like a jerk.
President Trump and others have touted his business credentials as one of the primary reasons to trust him to deliver jobs, security and change as POTUS. Through his first week on the job, however, his actions look less like those of a business leader and more like those of an ideologue showman — concerned with perception and not results.
Business leadership, in my experience, is about clearly-defined metrics, aggressive goal setting, and results. This is Business 101 — set quarterly and/or yearly goals , measure progress, and report results to shareholders. Too many misses and you’re out of a job, which is why leveraging past data to establish intelligent goals is imperative. Intelligent businesspeople don’t guess what their annual numbers might be, they strive to do two things exceedingly well:
- Use historical data to make accurate estimates about the future. The older your business, the more historical data you can leverage.
- Frequently measure results and change course if/when goals are not being met.
Shouldn’t presidential leadership, especially from a “successful businessman,” look the same?
So far, however, President Trump isn’t acting like a businessman, he’s acting like a politician who is more concerned about public perception than he is results. We’ll leave alone, for now, his concerning obsessions with crowd size and popular vote counts and focus, instead, on two specific policy areas where he took executive action this week: abortion and US security.
First abortion. Let’s take Trump and the GOP at their word that they would like to reduce the number of abortions in the U.S. and around the globe because they believe in protecting the life of an unborn child. President Obama stated similar goals throughout his presidency, so on its face it looks like both sides my be standing on common ground. The question is how to proceed to reach our shared goal.
One executive action from Trump this week was to reinstate the global gag rule, which strips U.S. family planning funds from groups who dare even suggest abortion as a health or family planning option. Since Republican and Democratic leaders have been issuing and revoking the global gag rule since Regan, we have plenty of historical data to review to determine if this action will help us achieve our goal or not, and it turns out that the global gag rule has never been an effective way to reduce abortions globally — and additionally, has the undesirable side-effect of negatively impacting women’s health in many underdeveloped nations.
- Researchers at Stanford University and officials at Population Action International (PAI) studied the impact of the global gag rule after it was reinstated by George W. Bush. They found that abortion rates rose sharply in 20 African countries and that, elsewhere, rates remained relatively stable.
- The PAI studies also show that every time the global gag rule returns, more women in effected developing countries lose critical medical care, die, or become disabled due to unsafe abortions.
Historical data indicates that reinstatement of the global gag rule, therefore, will not help the US achieve its bi-partisan goal of reducing global abortions, and will likely increase abortion rates and human suffering. In other words, this is a bad business decision that our new “CEO-in-chief” and his allies need to be held accountable for — just as a corporate Board of Directors would hold a business CEO accountable for decisions that are likely to have a negative impact on the bottom line.
For the record, US abortion rates fell to their lowest since Roe v. Wade under the Obama administration, and programs that increased funding for prevention measures have shown a positive impact on reducing the need and number of abortions. Furthermore, this type of spending has been shown to net more than $7 in future savings for every dollar spent.
Next, US security. Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order effectively blocking millions of immigrants and refugees from entering the United States on the premise that these actions would “protect the nation.” The measurable goal, again, seems to be one both parties should be able to agree on — reduce the number if violent deaths of US citizens — but, again, President Trump’s approach ignores key facts and should be expected to make little or no impact on the apparent goal.
- According to the CDC, since 2001, including the attacks of September 11, 2001, there have been a total of under 3500 deaths of US citizens by foreign terrorists — including attacks on US citizens while abroad.
- By comparison, also according to the CDC, there have been over 400,000 deaths on US soil caused by firearms.
- President Trump’s immigration ban does not include any of the home countries of the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
To protect the US “homeland,” wouldn’t we be much more likely to show impact by focusing on national gun violence and common sense gun laws? Again, aside from having little or no apparent impact on a bi-partisan citizen safety goal, Trump’s order has several undesirable side effects:
- The action may be illegal and has already been challenged in court. It certainly defies America’s history and values.
- Accepting refugees is one way to deprive ISIS of resources it needs to fund its terror campaigns.
- Many immigrants are already contributing to the US economy, and these actions prevent or discourage future generations of entrepreneurs, scientists, translators, soldiers, and students from coming to the US.
Again, President Trump has failed to do what a business leader is expected to do — deliver a stated, measurable goal against which he and his actions should be held accountable. His actions so far on US “security” have been mean-spirited, un-American, and unlikely to have any measurable impact on the security and safety of US citizens.
I’m always amazed by the amount of scrutiny my company and others receive from the media and from institutional shareholders after a quarterly earnings report. We frequently set and exceed earnings goals, but analysts, institutional investors and board members focus on a variety of additional metrics like bookings numbers, marketing spend, net retention and new business expansion in order to estimate future returns and hold our leadership responsible for results. Public businesses are forced to open our books and set targets for our shareholders, so shouldn’t we be applying the same type of scrutiny and transparency to our nation and its leaders?
Here’s an idea — let’s ask the new president and legislators to set tangible, actionable goals against stated top priorities and report back to “We the People” on progress at least once a quarter. I’d appreciate a powerpoint presentation and access to a standard set of reports so I can avoid the spin, focus on fact, and so that analysts and shareholders can revise estimates and write comprehensive, fact-based reports. President Trump is a businessman, after all, so it seems this should fit right into his wheelhouse. Perhaps some familiar structure would help President Trump and Congressional leaders stop messing around with ideologic showmanship and take action based on data and fact instead.