The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
Rearguard Action
Friday, October 12, 2007
The Nossiter Net is cast  to snare some of  the riper rascalities of the day.  Comments?
The MBA administration of George W. Bush, including the Harvard graduate president himself, was trained at the nation’s finest business schools.  Diverse though they are, our centers of higher commercial thought all agree on one fundamental business principal:  whether in doubt or not, hire consultants.  No MBA worthy of the degree considers doing anything, from changing the office furniture to rolling out a new product, without first obtaining the sage counsel of a high-priced consultant.  In MBA lingo, the practice yields nothing but upside.  If the product fails or the office furniture doesn’t fit, the consultant is blamed and the MBA’s backside is covered.  If everything works out, the MBA claims all the credit by conveniently failing to mention the consultant at all.  Pure win-win, and all at the cost of mere hundreds of thousands of corporate dollars, tax deductible of course.

As applied to governing the world’s most powerful nation, this fundamental business principle has produced some remarkable results. The New York Times reports that two years ago USAID’s budget was 95% devoted to private consultants.  Only 5% was spent on items like malaria nets and food aid to the impoverished, which is the actual business of USAID.

In Iraq there are more private contractors than soldiers.  Even the job of guarding US officials, traditionally the preserve of the US Marine Corps, has been handed to “security consultants” from firms like Blackwater.  Each one costs $1,220 per day, about six times the price of a US Marine. And that’s chickenfeed compared to the actual cost of hiring the Blackwaters. Most of them are former U.S. Navy Seals, Army Rangers, or other Special Forces, whose training at taxpayer expense runs into the serious six figures or more.

Here at home the MBA mentality led the Bush IRS to farm out the collection of unpaid taxes to private collection companies.  Although the House passed a bill to stop the program, the president threatens a veto.  This kind of thing has been tried before.  In the France of the
Ancien Regime, the right to collect taxes was sold to private citizens.  In the short term this produced a class of entrepreneurs, the Farmers-General, who grew enormously rich pocketing a percentage of the government’s tax revenue.  That’s entirely in keeping with the modern MBA handbook, but longer term the program didn’t work quite as planned. The resentment caused by the unregulated excesses of the Farmers-General in their quest for every last uncollected sous paved the way for the revolution of 1789.  Not a few of the newly rich lost their heads, the kind of outcome most MBA programs tend not to dwell on.

Ceding the work of the SEC, the FDA, FEMA, OSHA, and other government agencies to consultants and industry insiders has given us an economy in which the top 5% of earners controls a third of the nation’s income.  We’ve also had Enron, the mortgage meltdown, poisoned toopaste, deadly toys, e-coli in the food supply, the destruction of New Orleans, and lots of buried miners.  The Bush adminstration has taken no responsibility for these and all their other catastrophic blunders.  It must all have been the fault of the consultants.

As a prominent administration official once remarked, “stuff happens.”  That was Donald Rumsfeld, whose legacy of utterly unapologetic butchery, mendacity, indifference and incompetence epitomizes the Bush regime. Although he played the businessman from time to time Rumsfeld didn’t go to B school and indeed didn’t quite make it through Georgetown Law.  Still, he admirably captures the B school ethos.  An MD may be taught to first do no harm, but an MBA is trained to cover his ass above all else.

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There was nothing new at The Nossiter Net between March 3rd and April 26th,  nearly eight weeks.  The reason:  tech sabotage. Yahoo Geocities, the host for this site, denied access for the entire period.  At one point, they even managed to lose all the files.  In many discussions with Yahoo staff, no clear explanation was forthcoming.  No one seemed able to fix the problem.  Ruling out the possibility of Dubbya’s revenge, I finally wrote to Mr. Terry Semel, Chairman and CEO of Yahoo! Inc and described the ordeal the page had undergone since the beginning of March.  A week later, a helpful Yahooo engineer named Jason called.  He had my letter before him.  Though he couldn’t do the repairs on on the spot, he promised a fix by the next day.  That was April 26th, nearly two months after shutting me down in the first place.

The Nossiter Net apologizes, which is more than I can say for Yahoo Geocities.


©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2007

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