Donald Trump's unwillingness to say whether he will accept the results of the November election drew most of the headlines after Wednesday night's debate. But another statement was equally concerning: his pledge to run the country like he runs his businesses. Taken to an extreme, running the country like a business -- and particularly a Trump business -- would be profoundly undemocratic.
What would a "business-like" Trump administration look like?
Financial integrity: As is now well-known, Trump-owned businesses went through multiple bankruptcies, and managed to come out on top by stiffing creditors and employees. Bankruptcy is not an option for the federal government, unless he wants to tank our credit rating and ruin our ability to borrow on international markets. Trump has even spoken of "renegotiating" the debt, another surefire way to undermine the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.
Transparency: Trump's unwillingness to release his tax returns is often discussed. But that's not his only effort to hide the nature of his business dealings from the public. He routinely makes employees sign non-disclosure agreements so that they can't comment on his business practices. He even once said that it might be good to institute a similar policy for government employees. And what kind of budget detail can we expect from a man who won't release his own taxes in the middle of a presidential campaign?
Education Policy: Trump University. Need I say more? Okay, I will, if you twist my arm. His faux university has been sued for fraud in a case that is working its way through the courts. He has tried to delegitimize the proceedings by suggesting that the judge, who was born in Indiana, cannot be objective because he is of Mexican-American heritage. What would Trump's policy be towards the scores of for-profit universities that dot the national landscape, many of which have faced fraud investigations of their own? Does he even understand what a university is?
Fiscal Policy: The non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that the Trump tax plan, which involves massive tax cuts for America's richest citizens, would more than double the gross national debt, from $19 trillion now to $39.9 trilion by 2026. That won't leave much money left to build that wall.
Personnel policy: Trump's claim that he will "make America great again" hinges in large part on his assertion that he will "hire the best people." But many of our most successful leaders in business, science and the arts are immigrants or children of immigrants. Trump's threats to deport or keep out people based on their nation of origin could deprive America of much of this talent.
Temperament and leadership qualities: Unlike a business executive, a president has the ability to end life as we know it by launching nuclear weapons. A group of former missile launch officers summed up concerns about Trump's fitness to control the nuclear codes when they wrote that he did not have the "composure, judgment, restraint and diplomatic skill" to be entrusted with the decision of whether or not to use nuclear weapons.
Michael Bloomberg, another businessman turned politician, has given what is perhaps the most succinct response to Trump's claims to be a sharp businessman who can "make America great again": "Trump says he wants to run the nation like he's run his business. God help us."
So, the next time Donald Trump says he will run the country like his businesses, think carefully about what that would really mean, for America and the world.