A common refrain about government is that it “should run more like a business.”
It’s a shorthand way of saying government should be more strategic, efficient, accountable and responsive to the customer (That would be us, the citizenry).
Our political leaders and public servants sometimes chafe at this advice, provided by people who don’t always appreciate how hard it is to balance the demands of constituents, the bureaucracy and events over which they don’t have full control.
I take their point. But only up to a point.
There is at least one way in which running a business is exactly the same as running a government.
That is: to succeed, any organization must have a strategy.
In other words, you need to identify a problem or an opportunity, set a goal to solve the problem or seize the opportunity, get buy-in from other interested parties and put a rigorous process in place to achieve your goal.
Of all the factors causing dysfunction in our government – and there are many – the absence of strategy is one of the most compelling. There is no common vision for where we as a nation want to go and how we get there. No world war we need to win, or moon we need to reach, which can unite us across party lines.
There is an emerging political force called No Labels that has created a framework to develop a real strategy for America. It’s called the National Strategic Agenda and it offers potential to unite the country, shape the 2016 electoral debate and provide a proven framework for problem solving starting in the first 100 days of the next administration.
Almost five years ago, I helped create No Labels because I thought there had to be an alternative to the relentless partisanship that made it virtually impossible for our nation to solve big problems. There had to be a way to bring our parties together around a common vision and common goals.
I believe the National Strategic Agenda is one way. The National Strategic Agenda sets four ambitious goals for America – goals that were chosen with input directly from the American people through a series of national polls: Create 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years; balance the federal budget by 2030; secure Medicare and Social Security for the next 75 years; make America energy secure by 2024.
These are the priorities that matter deeply to the American people. And No Labels is working to ensure that these priorities are front and center in the 2016 presidential debate.
No Labels already has hundreds of staffers and volunteers on the ground in New Hampshire working to rally citizens behind this idea. Sometime before the primary, No Labels will award “problem solver seals of approval” to qualified candidates who embrace the Agenda as a way forward.
Meanwhile, 50 members of the House and Senate have already endorsed congressional resolutions calling for the creation of a National Strategic Agenda for the country.
What’s the endgame?
We want the next president, in his or her first 100 days in office, to invite congressional leaders from both parties to Camp David to commence work on at least one of the goals in the National Strategic Agenda. At this meeting, the group would commit to a problem solving process with real timelines, metrics and accountability for making progress toward that goal.
It’s an ambitious ask of a government that has been split by gridlock and partisanship for at least a decade. But our government has risen to achieve common goals in the not too distant past, whether it was Republican President Ronald Reagan working with Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill to reform Social Security and fix the tax code in the 1980s; or Democratic President Bill Clinton joining with House Speaker Newt Gingrich to balance the budget in the 1990s.
It is time for our current leaders to embrace that same bipartisan spirit.
The National Strategic Agenda features four different goals, but they all have something in common. Each will be harder to achieve the longer we wait.
I liken America’s situation to an airplane heading into a big storm system. At several hundred miles out, the pilot is able to make gradual adjustments to avoid the thunder clouds. The pilot adjusts a degree here and a degree there, and can fly to safety without too much turbulence. But wait too long, and the pilot will need to take massive, evasive maneuvers. It is a bumpy and turbulent ride.
Well, America is headed into that storm and it will be a bumpy and dangerous ride if we do not rise to meet these problems soon. That is why the National Strategic Agenda is such an important idea.
No Labels isn’t naïve about the challenges ahead. Partisanship and politicking won’t magically disappear if our leaders coalesce behind this idea. But a National Strategic Agenda can invest our leaders in common goals and a rigorous problem solving process and make it harder for them to simply walk away when debates on the issues inevitably get difficult.
The National Strategic Agenda is an idea which is right for its time. Above all, it can help Congress and our next president do the work of and for the people.
Andrew Tisch is the co-chairman of Loews Corporation and a Founder of No-Labels