First-time readers, the dialogue in this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020).  Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution.  More about Revenge Revolution and author, Entry #1.  List and general description of entries to date.  Annual assessment whether Revolution plausible.

Note: most characters appear in a number of entries, with many entries building on previous conversations.  Profile of characters.  You’ll catch on quickly.  Thanks for your time and interest…and comments.  This conversation begins Entry #225.

Gelly:  “Drone Man, nice to see you again.  I thought you were headed back to your 092615_2031_Characters7.gifgranddaughter’s tour group.”

Drone Man:  “Just as I got off the elevator in your lobby she called and said there’d been a delay of an hour or so.  So, Gelly, if it’s OK, I’ll take that cup of coffee you offered a few minutes ago.”

Gelly:  “Of course.  Come on in.  Jordan and I were just taking a short break.”

Jordan:  “Welcome back, Drone Man.  So we have you for another hour or so, eh?”

Drone Man:  “If you can put up with me.”

Jordan:  “It’s tough but we’ll try.”

(Gelly brings Drone Man coffee.)

Drone Man:  “Thanks for the coffee Gelly.  And since I interrupted you guys, I have another favor.”

Jordan:  “Which is…?”

Drone Man:  “In discussing lessons learned from the Revenge Revolution, I’ve not heard much about the Trump Administration…other than some lessons about what not goofy006to do for economic and tax policies.”

Jordan:  “You have a specific topic in mind?”

Drone Man:  “What about the lessons learned from Trump’s selection of various cabinet positions and heads of agencies?”

Jordan:  “You mean Trump’s appointments to the ‘Incompetents Club?’”

Drone Man:  “C’mon.  You really don’t mean the appointees were incompetent, do you?  Lots of smart people.”

Gelly:  “Jordan, Drone Man makes an interesting point.  These were smart people.  What do you mean?”

Jordan:  “Would either of you hire me to manage your brain surgery?”

Drone Man:  “Of course not.  That would be stupid.  What do you know about brain surgery?”

Brain deadJordan:  “Then stupid is as stupid does.. Why nominate a brain surgeon to be head of HUD (Housing and Urban Development).  Just because he lived in public housing as a kid, doesn’t mean he knows how to manage the agency.  The same applies to any number of Trump’s appointments – EPA, DOE, Interior…and the list goes on.  Zero knowledge of the agency they were to manage.”

Drone Man:  “Look, Trump was trying to ‘drain the swamp.’  He needed to appoint people who were not connected to the agency.”

Jordan:  “If you’re going to drain the swamp, don’t you think you should put someone who knows something about swamps?”

aligator-clip-artGelly:  “But didn’t Trump claim that people who knew the swamp were the problem?  Therefore, why appoint them?”

Drone Man:  “Keep poking him, Gelly.”

Jordan:  “My view is Trump was focused on the wrong target.”

Gelly:  “Well, then who’s to blame for the swamp if it’s not the bureaucrats at the agencies?”

Jordan:  “A group that few people really think about as a core problem – Congress.  CongressOh, yes, people think some members of Congress are too self-centered and non-responsive.”

Gelly:  “What about voters?  People keep electing the same congressional rep.  There’s very little turnover.”

Jordan:  “I agree voters share part of the blame.  But, unlike legislators in Congress, voters can’t make laws.  Voters cannot determine what money the Federal government will spend.  And that fact seems to be where Trump completely missed the boat.  The Federal agencies do not authorize their budget.  All spending bills are initiated in the House, not by the agency.”

Gelly:  “So you’re saying the agencies really manage the money that Congress authorizes, right?”

ConstitutionJordan:  “Exactly.  If you listened to Trump, who apparently had never read the Constitution and sleep-walked through his 8th-grade civics class, you’d think EPA, Defense, Education, Interior, Transportation and all the other agencies just ran around printing money willy-nilly.  Someone forgot to tell the Donald, if you want to change what goes on in Washington, you better start with the place that approves the spending…Congress.”

Gelly:  “I must missing something.  If the heads of agencies are really just managers, why were the Trump appointments so bad?  I mean most of his appointments were business people and former military generals.  Don’t these guys know how to manage?”

Drone Man:  “She’s spot on, Jordan.  What’s the issue with my man’s appointments…I mean Trump’s appointments?”

Jordan:  “Like I said earlier, if you’re going to manage a complex task…like brain surgery…you should know something about the subject matter.”

Gelly:  “This discussion all seems abstract to me.  You have a specific example?”

Jordan:  “Yes, Trump put ideologues in management positions.  Few of the appointees had real-world experience in the field they were supposed to manage…and some had no management experience whatsoever.  That same approach…ideologues managing areas where they had little experience…is what ruined one of the world’s best companies.”

GM,_logoDrone Man:  “Based on you past, you must be talking about another general…General Motors?”

Jordan:  “In the early 1980’s when Roger B. Smith took over as chairman, he too claimed he wanted to ‘drain the swamp,’ although he used different words.  Like Trump he focused on cost, cost, and cost.  He chose to pursue seemingly easy, high-profile targets, including shafting some long-time vendors.”

Gelly:  “But isn’t that just the way good businesses operate?”

Jordan:  “Not really.  Trump’s record as a businessman is not very good.  Why GM was so remarkably successful for so many decades was not because it focused primarily on cost.”

Drone Man:  “What did Smith do that was so wrong?  I still don’t understand.”

BeanCounterJordan:  “His approach to generating profits was wrong.  Smith put a bunch of bean counters in staff positions that had nothing to do with finance.  Their job was to generate more profits, primarily by cutting cost and then cutting more cost.”

Gelly:  “That sounds like the approach Trump and heads of agencies took.  Keep cutting cost.”

Drone Man:  “What’s wrong with cutting cost?  All large organizations have fat, especially the government.  You sound like some screaming liberal…or even worse fat-personsome academic.”

Jordan:  “And you sound like Trump with his immature tweets.”

Gelly:  “Now children, let’s behave.”

Jordan:  “Yes, mother.  Anyway, in Smith’s obsession with profits, he forgot one thing…sustained profits are not generated from cutting costs.  Sustained profits, and not just for GM but for any company, are generated from selling more product, whether cars and trucks or computers or shirts and sweaters.  No organization can sustain itself without generating revenue.”

Gelly:  “So what really happened at General Motors when Roger Smith was chairman?  Is that the person who people called ‘Squeaky’?”

Jordan:  “During Squeaky’s reign…I mean Smith’s reign in the 1980’s, GM lost 10 points of market share.  Let put that in perspective.  If annual car and truck sales are say 15 million units, then GM no longer produced and sold 1,500,000 sales units every single year.”

money-down-the-drainDrone Man:  “Each year?  That seems like a huge number…and lots of money down the drain.”

Jordan:  “At the time it was the equivalent of about six (6) large assembly plants with thousands and thousands of people and suppliers.  1.5 million is more cars and truck than sold in the US by Chrysler, Honda, Toyota at the time and bunch of other manufacturers.”

Gelly:  “Well, if GM lost those sales in the 1980’s, did the slide continue in the 1990’s?”

Jordan:  “That’s the problem, once a slide like that starts, it’s very hard to stop.  GM eventually declared bankruptcy.  Before it started to rebound in about 2014, GM share was only about 1/3 of what it was just before Smith took over.”

Drone Man:  “That’s amazing.  They lost 2/3 of their market share?”

Jordan:  “Just about 2/3, yes.”

Drone Man:  “So, if sales and revenue decline, all those cuts in expenses mean man-fallingnothing.  If the revenue falls, then profit also falls and the organization does not come out ahead…and in the end can be worse off.”

Jordan:  “Interesting dilemma, huh?  I’m not saying you shouldn’t look for ways to cut cost, but people need to understand what generates revenue…and it’s not from cutting cost.”

Gelly:  “For the government, revenue is from taxes.  So, if the economy continues to stall or even sink, or people are not as productive and make less money, then the long-term effects are like what happened to GM.  That doesn’t seem very appealing.”

Drone Man:  “I’d never really connected the dots between the skills of the cabinet members and the possible effect on the country.  It’s really important to have the right people in the right job.”

TurtleneckJordan:  “As I asked earlier, would you hire me to manage your brain surgery?”

Drone Man:  “When I think about Trump’s picks for cabinet posts, most of them were ideologues opposed to the fundamental purpose of the agency.  No wonder there were so many problems.”

Jordan:  “No different from Roger Smith chosing people in GM who were focused on cutting cost and not generating revenue.  As most of Trump’s cabinet didn’t understand government, most of Smith’s picks didn’t really understand the car business.”

Gelly:  “And Trump selected people who were focused on destroying the very agency they were supposed to lead.  Rather than making the agency better, they wanted to destroy it.”

Drone Man:  “Unfortunately, the result for the country was about the same as GM…except rather than going bankrupt the US had the Revenge Revolution.”

three-stoogesJordan:  “Now you see why I called Trump’s cabinet the ‘Incompetent’s Club.’  They might have been smart in one field but they were like Larry, Moe and Curly in their government jobs.”

Drone Man:  “And with that bit of wisdom, I need to disappear…this time for good.  Gelly, Jordan, it’s been swell.”