December 30, 2013

The Great Game of Government

December 2009 were heady days for those intent on reining in the "abuses" of "big business." Just ten days prior to the midnight passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by a straight party line vote of Democrat US Senators, Springfield, MO CEO Jack Stack started a blog page with a topic of 'Open the Books.'

Why would business owners want to open the books to their employees?

Because doing so has the power to change the way the company operates and to change the way employees think about their work. Let me quote former Representative Richard Gephardt, whom I introduced to open-book management and who has dedicated much of his time since leaving office to spreading the word: Open-book management, Mr. Gephardt wrote in his book, "An Even Better Place," represents "an overall approach to corporate governance that treats the employees like co-owners of the business who have to make sacrifices and take on the burdens that any owner assumes."

The idea is to get employees to start approaching their jobs as if they owned the place, which in fact they might.

This may or may not be a great idea for corporations, which must compete with other corporations in a marginally free market. But it sounds to me like a fantastic idea for government.

It's also a great idea according to Chicago's Adam Andrzejewski, who has invested considerable time and money on a project called Open the Books...

which allows users to see spending figures in their areas across multiple levels of government, going back 12 years in some cases. Shining light on such data is the means, but the primary goal of the site and app is to put pressure on governments to reduce wasteful spending, and it's already been downloaded more than 5,000 times in the Google Play store. It's also available in the Apple app store.

"There are no easy conversations in America anymore about spending and debt," Andrzejewski told me, "So everyday people have to start holding local officials accountable."

It is here that I learned that over three thousand Illinois government employees have higher salaries than the state's governor. And on the openthebooks.com page where I ran a search to discover how many federal employees earn over $300,000 per year (and that those at the top of the list all work for the VA or VHA.) In another search I found the names and addresses of Colorado farmers receiving multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in "supplemental farm income" from the federal government!

Our goal was to teach our employees to think and act like owners. We started by trying to improve their financial literacy by turning topics like accounting into a game. We played this game with real money, however, and the game’s pieces were each and every employee’s quality of life. We called it The Great Game of Business.

Visit openthebooks.com. Run some searches. Make a donation. Share results on Facebook. Let's help Adam spread The Great Game of Government, and turn as many as possible of the current winners into the losers they really are.

HT: Last evening's John Stossel show.

UPDATE: [jk here, don't blame jg of I booger this up] Here is a widget (works for me in Chrome but not IE, your mileage may vary...):

Government Politics Tea Party democracy Posted by JohnGalt at December 30, 2013 4:07 PM

Nice job on the widget! Here's a fun test for everyone: Under Federal click "checkbook" then "zip code" and "farm subsidies" then pick a modest radius and enter your zip code. Find out how many of your neighbors are pulling down 20, 50, $60k per year or more in "Supplemental Assistance Program" or "Biomass Crop Assistance" or "Emergency Assistance Livestock; Honeybee; Fish."

Posted by: johngalt at January 1, 2014 12:41 PM

"Direct Payments" is another fun category. The major recipient in my area seems to be housing projects and, Pell Grants. Notably $3.7M from the Education Department in 2010 for Park College in zip code 80229, 2nd Congressional District, a "profit organization", which was paid from, hmmm, the "Appalachian Regional Commission" Program Source? Way to go Representative Polis!! Bacon, bacon, bacon!

This reminds me of the Pell Grants to an Illinois cosmetology college with annual tuition of $20k.

Posted by: johngalt at January 1, 2014 12:48 PM | What do you think? [2]