(Chuck Muth) – I have a bone to pick with Jim Murren, chairman of MGM Resorts, but in order to do so I need you to consider a ridiculously absurd scenario first.
Let’s say ObamaCare takes firm root in the nation. And then let’s say the president decrees that a happy and healthy federal workforce is critical to the nation’s “general welfare” – therefore, it is mandated that all federal workers take a two-week vacation every year, paid for by taxpayers.
Now let’s also say that the Las Vegas tourism market is still in the crapper and, thanks to intense lobbying by Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman, President Obama further decrees that those two-week vacations must be taken in Las Vegas; however, all of the city’s struggling resorts are first nationalized and taken over by the government to bail them out – except the privately-owned luxury resorts Wynn/Encore and Venetian/Palazzo.
And finally, let’s say the federal government decides that each of the government-owned resorts will receive a flat, guaranteed price of $100 a night, whether they stay at the Mandalay Bay or the Imperial Palace.
Oh, and the federal government will decide which resorts the workers stay in depending on which state they live in. Workers must stay at their assigned hotel unless they wish to pay the higher room rates at one of the two private resorts themselves.
Preposterous. Absurd. Ridiculous. Only a crackhead could come up with something so insane, right? Except….
That’s pretty much how we run public education in America today.
The government has decreed compulsory school attendance, asserting that an educated populace is essential to the general welfare. As such, everyone has to pay toward the cost of the public education system, whether they have school-aged kids or not.
In addition, the government runs all but a few elite, expensive private schools which you must pay extra for if you opt not to send your kids to the public school assigned by the government. And every government-run school receives the same amount per child whether the school is above average or sucks eggs.
Now let’s say Jim Murren’s MGM Grand is one of the new government-owned and operated resorts. And let’s say the MGM’s front desk is slow to check people in, the food sucks, the entertainment is crappy and the cocktail waitresses have all been AARP members for at least ten years or longer.
Naturally, customer complaints are high; so high that the intended objective of providing government workers a fun, relaxing vacation isn’t even close to being realized.
In response to all the complaints, let’s say Jim Murren tells Obama that he simply can’t improve the quality of his resort’s service without more money. So the Obama administration increases the per-room rate from $100 to $150 a night and raises taxes on everyone to pay the higher cost.
But let’s say Mr. Murren keeps the same managers, the same employees, the same lousy food and the same lame entertainment.
Did giving the MGM Grand more money result in a better vacation? Of course not. Why? Because money isn’t the problem. The problem is that the government is running the store. And as we all know, the government can’t even run a brothel, let alone a school system.
So what’s my beef with Mr. Murren?
The fact that in a recent interview with the Las Vegas Sun, he declared that “with a company like ours that depends solely on the health of the community for our existence, we have to value education.”
He added that the public school system in Nevada “needs improvement” and that the problem is due to “underinvestment for decades.”
Mr. Murren went on to say, “I do believe class sizes are too large; I believe we need to keep children in school. I do believe teachers should be held accountable for performance. What’s missing is we can’t find the right metric to hold teachers accountable.”
He added that you “have to empower the schools…at the local level because one size doesn’t fit all” and that “we need to raise taxes.”
Good grief; where to begin?
If the education of his workforce is so important that the success of his company depends on it, why is he outsourcing that responsibility to the government?
Does he outsource his restaurant operations to the government? Does he outsource his casino operations to the government? Does he outsource his reservation system to the government? Does he outsource his nightclubs and showrooms to the government?
Of course not.
So if education is really so darned important to the health and success of his company, why is he leaving such a critical operation in the government’s hands? Why doesn’t the MGM Grand open and operate its own schools for its own employees that will have smaller class sizes and hold its in-house teachers to the same high standards it expects from every other employee in the company?
We know what metric works. It’s called the private sector. And the answer to the problem isn’t more money and higher taxes. And it’s not empowering schools at the local level.
The answer is to empower PARENTS. The answer is to give parents school vouchers in the amount we’re presently giving to our Soviet-style local schools so they can send their kids to the schools of THEIR choice, not the government’s – including a school owned and operated by MGM Grand if they so choose.
With all due respect to Mr. Murren, I’m sick and tired of business executives complaining about the lousy job the government is doing in education but who aren’t willing to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to dismantling the government monopoly over education and supporting the kinds of free market reforms that indisputably are necessary to fix the problem
As long at the government runs the schools, the schools will suck. Or at best will be mediocre – especially when compared, not to other schools in other American cities, but to schools in other developed, and in some cases under-developed, countries.
If education is really that important to you and your company, Mr. Murren, please join the effort to get it out of the hands of the government.