THE BUSINESS OF THE PEOPLE: USA, Inc,. (part 1 of a series)
The chaos that consumes politicians today may very well not be as it appears–merely and entirely a result of partisan hornswoggling. Perhaps it arises from Congress’s and the Trump Administration’s deep lack of understanding of the role each play in running the business of the United States.
Concerned about the serious missteps of the new administration, two weeks ago I began to pen an open essay intended to explain to Mr. Trump (the man, not the president) his role in government, in language he could easily understand–that is, in real estate terms.
As new policies come out of the White House, I am convinced even more now that the position Mr. Trump applied for is not in line with the role he had in mind. You see, family corporations are not democracies. Chief Executives of those are not beholden to anyone. They hire and fire whomever they please. And while they have advisers, they have no obligation (or as with most, no inclination) to listen to anyone. In that business environment, the CEO's or Chairman’s word is final, and no one else has the power to check or contradict it.
Unfortunately for Mr. Trump, the President of the United States, while the CEO of government, is not constitutionally written to act as such. Instead, he is, in real estate terms, an agent of the people, laden with fiduciary obligations. He is a dual agent of opposing factions, all looking after their own interests. He is the entrusted representative who is tasked with figuring out a way for all parties to work together to pursue the common goal of a successful republic. And because, as a private developer/businessman, most of his experience has been focused on looking out for his own interests and listening to his own voice alone, Donald Trump is having a difficult time comprehending why his actions inspire little or no faith on either side.
The Trump Administration’s proposed budget is a good example of a good strategy for the wrong role. Any good broker can spot “bottom-fishing” when they see it. This budget is a classic example. It’s a “throw away,” non-starter offer. And it’s not a bad move.
Bottom-fishing is when one party makes an offer that is meant to lower the “bottom” expectations of the other party. It is usually an initial offer that contains several items that are intended to be beyond reason, fully expected to be thrown out. It anticipates that the party receiving the offer will balk. That said, the mere presentation of the offer has already lowered psychologically the bottom line of their counterparts. Thus, any subsequent revised offer will sound much more reasonable, and it often gets all parties to the negotiating table in succeeding rounds.
Viewed from this perspective, it is no wonder the proposed budget calls for drastic cuts in funding and programs, egregious even to Trump’s own party and supporters. The savvy negotiator fully expects everyone to get fired up and to fight to protect their programs. This ensures maximum publicity.
Republicans in Congress will feign outrage throughout the process. After all, even though they are of the same party, some of these deadly cuts affect their own constituents. There will be a great show of teeth and muscle. Some will even appear to swing to the other side in search of a compromise. Given this, in the next few weeks, expect to see the Trump Administration to back off and to give in, oddly keeping important “high-visibility” programs intact. Thereafter, the marketing will begin. Everyone will be out strutting to look good to their followers.
In the end, those whose funding/programs are lessened but saved will count that as a “win,” even though all they got was what they started out to begin with, or even less. And in exchange, Trump would have negotiated and gained something he had wanted all along. What that is, remains to be seen.
But one thing is certain, unlike his political opponents who seem like amateur negotiators in comparison, Donald Trump appreciates the mile-high difference between not losing and winning. Take note: saving something, which was never supposed to be in the chopping block, isn’t winning, no matter how you market it.
Strategically, there are effective ways to respond to a bottom-fishing proposal. If Donald Trump is POTUS playing the role of a developer/CEO, what the Democrats need is a much better broker/negotiator, and an infinitely better marketer.
Meanwhile, “WE, THE PEOPLE” is in serious need of an agent to represent it–one whose fiduciary duties are: loyalty, confidentiality, disclosure, obedience, reasonable care and diligence, and accounting.
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