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Stephen Goldstein: Check the symptoms – you may have ‘Obsessive CEO Syndrome’

The United States is in the middle of a devastating epidemic of “Obsessive CEO Syndrome” (OCS). It’s a debilitating condition in which victims are deluded into thinking that the chosen people at the top of organization charts have the best minds, all the answers to all of our problems, and, should they choose to abandon the rarefied air of their boardrooms, make the best public servants and elected officials.

In other words, OCS is delirium bordering on insanity.

Florida is among those states hardest hit. Felled by OCS, a majority of Florida voters elected defrocked CEO Rick Scott governor in 2010 and are in danger of doing so again.

To return the nation to mental health ahead of the November election, all of us need to be able to recognize the bizarre logic and assumptions of people who may suffer from OCS and know the best protocols to save them — and us, from them. Here are the “Seven Deadly Signs” of their most twisted thinking:

  1. Government can do no good: Most victims of OCS fall under the noxious spell of B-actor-turned-presidential-impersonator Ronald Reagan — or others who followed his script. For eight years, the best gig of his career — no matinees! — he repeated the mantra that his corporate cronies gave him. But NASA, the U.S. military, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Hurricane Center are government agencies. Surely, they are a bit better than Enron was.

Rick Scott would take “no good” a step further and contend that the private sector can always provide services better that the public sector. Thinking like a CEO, not a governor, he’s never missed an opportunity to provide his cronies guaranteed sources of income from tax dollars redirected from the state Treasury into for-profit businesses with little or no oversight and accountability.

  1. Business can do no evil: Elected officials who were CEOs would say that a self-correcting, free market is a moral panacea. But there are many bad apples in the orchards of American business. Season after season, business reaps harvests of illegalities that are the stuff of daily newspaper headlines: Medicare and Medicaid fraud; securities, investment, and banking crimes; consumer rip-offs; Ponzi schemes. Too often, perpetrators attain elective office and bring their skullduggery with them, or establish a business-as-usual climate that indulges it.
  2. The Founding Fathers were capitalists who framed the Constitution to promote corporate interests: Contrary to the Sarah-Palin-made-up-classic-comic-book version of America history, our FF’s were largely former British royalist-loyalists, land-and-slave-holding aristocrats who never envisioned this country serving business interests on a scale they could neverhave imagined. CEOs who sprinkle their campaign speeches with references to the FF’s should be sent back to third grade.
  3. The government should be run like a business by businesspeople and for the benefit of businesses: Calvin Coolidge observed,“the chief business of the American people is business.” But that doesn’t mean that the government should be taken over by business interests. The properrole of government is to provide a supportive environment in which business can thrive — but not at the expense of the public interest. No matter what they think, the Koch brothers don’t have an equity stake in America more than the rest of us.
  4. The private sector creates job, but the public section doesn’t: Hogwash! Most major businesses “create” jobs through government contracts (taxpayer money). The public sector creates millions of jobs — police, fire, teachers, members of the armed forces. Believing the unproven claim that for-profit businesses can provide better services more cheaply than government, proponents of privatization want to give them guaranteed revenue streams. More hogwash!
  5. Markets should be self-policed and free of regulation: Think 1929 & 2008! Nothing more need be said!
  6. CEOs make the best public servants and elected officials: Former CEO-Gov. Rick Scott has not created the jobs he promised and has violated his oath of office by routinely putting business interests above those of “the people.” When CEO-Gov. Mitt Romney left office, Massachusetts was 47thin job-growth, burdened with a $1 billion deficit, and had seen an increase in state and local taxes.

At the first sign that anyone believes one or more of the “Seven Deadly Signs,” everyone potentially infected should immediately seek help. The cure for OCS is facing reality: Businesspeople know nothing about running government. CEOs should stick to business, succeed or fail, and stop messing with “the people’s” interests.

Fortunately, it’s not too late. A cure will be available at the ballot box on Nov. 4. And there’s still hope for those who can see beyond the bottom line.

Stephen L. Goldstein is the author of “The Dictionary of American Political Bullshit” and “Atlas Drugged: Ayn Rand Be Damned.” He lives in Fort Lauderdale. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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