Some are surprised by the news that Democrat Hillary Clinton has spent far more in her presidential campaign than Republican Donald Trump.
It doesn’t surprise me one ding-dong bit, though. Not one blooming scintilla.
That’s because I spent almost two decades running small, local businesses — in my case, local newspapers — for vastly wealthy people who, to borrow a phrase from Mike Ditka, “threw nickels around like manhole covers.”
I’ll never forget the time I told one of the owners of that company that our small paper had won some newsroom award in a state press contest.
Without missing a beat, he replied, “How many dollars did that bring in the door?”
Ouch. (Not one dollar.)
Not long after, another of the owners asked me what the average rate was for our advertising department. When it wasn’t on the tip of my tongue, he said:
“You newsroom guys are all alike.”
Ouch. (From then on, I had our average rate memorized.)
So it comes as no surprise to me that Trump isn’t spending one penny that he doesn’t need to spend to stay competitive with Clinton, who we keep hearing is spending literally hundreds of millions (even though the Democrats are always complaining about campaign spending). I know these people. And as a jaded co-worker once told me, the vastly wealthy didn’t get that way “over-paying the butler.”
That’s not to say they weren’t good, honest people who cared about their employees. They just weren’t stupid about spending money, which I believe is the main difference between them and politicians. Think about it. Many in the media approve of the dollars Clinton is spending. But the vastly wealthy no doubt approve of Trump for getting the same results, and in some cases better results, for far less.
An old, liberal editor I once knew was always saying you can’t compare government to business. But I argued that it wouldn’t hurt if government was a little more like business, especially when it comes to spending.
Wasn’t it our current president, after all, who said “don’t do stupid (uh, stuff)?”
I can’t imagine what my former employers (I’m out to pasture now, in retirement, and they sold their papers years ago) would think of a government that is $20 trillion in debt. Their jaws would drop in disbelief when politicians take credit for annual budgets that are only a half trillion in the red instead of a whole trillion, with no progress, ever, on paying down the accumulated debt.
If I had sent in a budget that proposed spending more than we took in revenues, they would have sent some new guy to my town to do my job, because “Old Simpson has lost his marbles.”
Some things were absolutely clear to those folks, and while they were very successful and wealthy, wasting one penny of their accumulated wealth on anything unnecessary was not an option. And if I had simply added some percentage to what I spent the previous year, and sent that budget in, it would have been rejected. With lightning speed.
No, in a world in which government is still mystified by the notion of zero-based budgeting, we were expected to justify every dollar we budgeted, every year. And the expectation was, “What spending do you plan to eliminate this year to operate more efficiently, and add dollars to the bottom line?”
And yet, we allow government to rack up huge deficits, to simply fail to pass budgets for years on end, to operate on “continuing resolutions,” and to beat its hairy chest in pride when it manages to spend only a half trillion too much.
And these are the people who are supposedly “fit to hold office.”
Sometimes I wonder if the folks I worked for and our politicians are on the same planet. Or in the same galaxy.
There were no knockout punches in the first big presidential debate this week. So we still have no clear idea how this is all going to work out.
I find it refreshing, however, that we have at least one candidate who can say the words, “If we don’t need to spend money, let’s not spend it.”
Dave Simpson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org