None of Our Business

Unless you have been on the latest Chinese rocket ship to outer space you have seen clips from Sunday night’s “60 Minutes.”  Jeff Bezos, CEO from Amazon.com, was holding court with Charlie Rose. He was enumerating  fact after fact of how many times and how fast they process goods  and then blew everyone away with the future…at least as he saw it. His company has been researching the use of drones to deliver packages. Some were in awe and some said he was nuts and yet there he was at least thinking about it. Very cool.

I started doing a little research. It seems Amazon can process over 300 orders per second! That is crazy. Sir Jeff goes on to describe how in the early days he would bring the packages to the post office himself. His one big dream was to one day have so much business in a warehouse that he could buy a fork lift. From the tiny acorn a great oak grows. This fiasco of a healthcare rollout got me thinking even more. We are trying to take care of a few thousand inquiries an hour.

Let’s look at Facebook. They have 1.26 billion users worldwide. There are 2.2 billion hits a day. Big deal,you say.  You just give a thumbs up or down. kiddies we are talking about a complex site for Obamacare. Okay, let’s look at Google. There are 3 billion inquiries for info daily. 500 million are for things they have never been queried on before. They peruse 20 billion sites to find you the correct answer in seconds. Are you getting my drift?

For a moment let’s not debate the efficacy of the Affordable Care Act but the process. For three years now we have been planning the rollout. I say we because like it or not you and I foot the bill. At the helm is Kathleen Sebelius. Her resume states she had been Governor of Kansas and before that the state’s insurance commissioner. Hold that thought and become a head hunter. Would you have chosen this person to be the head of a $982 billion corporation? To give a little perspective Walmart is a $470 billion enterprise, GE $147 billion and Ford Motor a mere $134 billion.

Let’s get off that bandwagon and swing onto defense. Chuck Hagel is a nice guy like Ms. Sebelius. He was an enlisted man in the Army and went to Viet Nam. Thank you for your service. He went on to become a US Senator and then Secretary of Defense. He is now in charge of a $683 billion corporation with worldwide operations and a multitude of subsidiaries. Was he in your top ten of candidates?

Don’t be so smug all you righties. This ain’t particularly  Anti Obama. You remember Mike Leavitt. He was HHS secretary under Bush. He went to Southern Utah University and then was Governor of Utah. The BeeHive state is beautiful but I am not sure it is a proving ground for executive talent. Paul Bremer was the civilian in charge for Iraq when we invaded. His management expertise was drawn from a diplomatic career. In the first few days he fired 400,000 Iraqi soldiers who would have cost us $12 million a month to keep on….and out of the way. Gotta watch those numbers and it only cost us $1.25 trillion to get out of that one.

Now let’s just say you are a stockholder of the overall entity. Unfortunately we are.  You keep putting up money on a annual basis. We are taking some pretty big losses year over year. The balance sheet doesn’t look so good to the tune of  $16 trillion in the red. That’s okay because we should start turning a profit in say around 2025. Hey. Twitter is losing money too.

I’ll tell you what. Let’s do some cost cutting. We will close down some money losing operations, fire staff and rein in expenditures. Right. We have weapons systems that have been defunded for years  but the offices remain open. Ditto about one hundred military installations that serve no other purpose than to prop up the local economy. We need Carl Icahn, Leon Black and KKR to come in and clean house.

Maybe we can do it internally?  One of our divisions(Health and Human Services) has between $80-100 billion in fraudulent transactions per annum but they are making progress. They recovered fully $5 billion of those lost funds with a small group of investigators. What’s that you say? Hire more watchdogs? Can’t do that. The Board of Directors (Congress) doesn’t want you to go this route. It wouldn’t look good to be bringing on new staff.

That’s okay we have a lean business plan to guide us. Our primary revenue blueprint has 4 million words in the code. It is so fraught with loopholes it is a wonder anyone pays in. Back in the 30’s and 40’s we had laws that were only a few pages long. Yeah but they didn’t have a clue how tough this governing thing is.

One thing we do know is how to budget and plan for our future. I can prove that. It is estimated that most infrastructure projects run only 38% over what was projected. We have this thing down to a science. Jet fighters, aircraft carriers, web sites? You have to know when to hold them and when to fold them. Relax,we are getting there. It is a learning curve.

We are finally getting this exchange website going. A senior exec from Google is on leave  from California and leading the charge. Duh? We have burned through millions of dollars and precious man (and woman) hours to finally figure this out. There are people in government who are very talented. I am sure there are a lot of nice well meaning people in government that really don’t have a clue. Then there are a bunch of fat cats (elected,appointed,and civil serviced) who see it as one big gravy train. Keep your mouth shut and try to stay out of trouble.

It would humorous and somewhat intriguing if it wasn’t a $3.5 trillion business with 2.75 million employees. It is beyond unwieldly and out of control. We need to streamline. We need a stockholder revolt. We need a new strategic plan. We need a new board of directors. It really is some of our business. Let’s storm the Bastille or wherever.

As always

Ted The Great

Factoids

Health and Human Services has several thousand people still  on its rolls who are dead. They pay them Social Security and Government Pension funds annually. They say the few hundred million we dole out is not considered a priority.

In 2008 The Government Accounting Office (GAO) reported that 72 weapons programs in the military have average cost overruns of 40%

The Capitol Visitor Center was projected to cost $265 million in 2000. The final cost was $621 million in 2008.  Think it was worth it to see these schmoes up front and personal?

The Big Dig in Boston was originally pegged at $2.6 billion in 1986 and was opened in 2005. The total cost including interest will be $22 billion. For that a concrete ceiling tile that was substandard fell and killed a motorist.

The majority of these overruns are plagued by poor project planning and lack of experience. The government should be in the business of legislating and the management of projects and facilities should be left to private business who can be both rewarded for achievement and culpable for failure. Hey, I can dream can’t I?

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