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Di Leo: Washington D.C. and the Problem of Time

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By John F. Di Leo - Clock Capitol

“We have plenty of time.”

When we’re young, everyone thinks we have time… plenty of time.

We tell our children to study, to eat, to exercise, to learn, and they look at the clock, and they look at their parents, and what do they think? “What do those haggard, grey-haired grown-ups know? I’m a kid; I have plenty of time.”

The same continues as we age. In our twenties, we date for fun and put off marriage; there’s still plenty of time. In our thirties, we spend our money on houses and vacations rather than saving for retirement; there’s still plenty of time. 

Only later, often much too late, do we realize there wasn’t time after all, and we should have focused on what mattered, and made it happen, when we were young, and had energy, rather than letting those golden opportunities pass us by.

Washington D.C.

Politicians (the majority, anyway) are human too. They too suffer from the all-to-human error of imagining immortality, imagining that they have plenty of time.

As Congressional incumbency has become almost-guaranteed job security, our representatives in the US House – and especially in the US Senate, with their six year terms and incredible reelection odds – tend to adopt a very different view of the time-space continuum than their constituents have.

They lose their appreciation for the rest of the world – certainly for their districts and states – and they adopt the mentality of the Beltway, The District of Columbia. And they lose the sense of urgency that their constituents felt on election day.

“I’ll vote for John Smith! He’ll get in there and do the right thing!”

But then he got there. He arrived. And life happened. 

There are committee hearings to attend, fundraisers to hold, speeches to give.   The day-to-day business of cutting taxes, trimming regulations, and shrinking the leviathan isn’t as exciting, or as urgent, as the meeting at 9, the lunch at 11, the cocktail party at 5 or the dinner at 8.  Not that cutting taxes and trimming regulations aren’t important… just that…  they aren’t on the calendar. 

A steak will get cold if I’m not there on time to eat it; legislation won’t get tough or spoil if it sits another day.

So many of our politicians are elected with the best of intentions (of course, many aren’t, but that’s a different problem)… but as soon as they arrive, the energy of the campaign is changed into something else. Instead of shrinking the government, they become a part of it.

This has become the key problem of 2017.

The American people elected a new president – an unusual one, with an unusual resume – with the intention of getting things done. Elected with majorities (however slim) in the House and Senate, it was assumed that there would be a flurry of Republican legislation in 2017 for the president to sign.

It never happened.

The House and Senate took months and months to think about Obamacare, about tax cuts, about tax reform, about regulatory reform. With both houses and the White House, they were expected to at least pass the basic platform planks quickly, perhaps leaving the more difficult things, the more contentious issues, for later.

But no, everything stalled in Congress, as the legislative leadership tried to craft “the best possible healthcare reform,” “the best possible tax reform,” “the best possible reviews” of dozens of other complex issues.

So, instead of making quick progress on the obvious things – Obamacare repeal (leaving replacement packages for later), tax cuts (leaving complex systemic reforms for later), and so forth – Congress has been remarkably slow. They think they have time to “get it right.”

This is what we hear from the politicians: they don’t want to make the mistakes of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid era, in rushing ahead with half-baked ideas; they want to craft the best possible reforms. And this may seem laudable. 

But there is an old saying (often repeated to this writer by an old boss): “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

Congress’ postponement of even some tax cuts, their postponement of the big, easy repeals of Obamacare, and their postponement of legislatively scuttling many of the destructive regulations that the Trump administration has had to blunt with Executive Orders in the meantime, has left the economy in limbo. We want to see laws, not EOs; we want to see some permanent steps forward, even if there’s more to come later.

For example, if we’re hoping for a 40 or 50 percent income tax cut, Congress could have passed a 20% cut right away, just to get the party started. Such an injection of energy into the economy would have created true growth in the meantime, as they sort out more complex reforms and deeper cuts.  But we got nothing, just the promise that something is coming, that when we finally see it, someday, it’s going to be really, really good.

2017 is almost gone; it’s filing season for the 2018 elections… and our ruling class thinks “they have plenty of time to get it just perfect.”

Out In The Real World

In the heartland of America, however, as we wait for the legislators in their Beltway bubble to cut taxes, cut regulations, end Obamacare, and give the economy the permanent clarity we expected from them months ago… what is happening to us?

Tens of thousands of entrepreneurial-minded people are postponing the launching of new businesses, because they’re not yet sure that it’s a safe environment for their ventures. Maybe next year? Maybe the following? Maybe the window of market opportunity will have passed by then?

Millions of people who would be among the first hires at those new businesses, aren’t… because the jobs aren’t there yet to take. Maybe next year? Maybe the following? And until then, they must continue on the unemployment rolls, the welfare rolls, or the couch in the parents’ basement.

Tens of thousands of suffering people, perhaps more likely millions, who had insurance coverage a decade ago but now don’t because of Obamacare, must put off their surgeries, their chemo, their radiation therapy, their hip or knee replacements, another year… which often allows the problem to get worse, perhaps to the point of being untreatable… all because Congress couldn’t kill Obamacare and let the healthcare sector return to the free market in February as everyone expected.

Millions of people who work for existing American manufacturers, ever fearful of the competition from cheaper manufacturing abroad, continue to struggle, as their factories cut and cut, outsource and outsource, trying to survive in this hostile economic climate. The right business tax cuts, the right regulatory relaxations, would allow these manufacturers to breathe easier, but as long as those cuts are postponed, businesses must live in the environment that exists.  So every month, the factory with ten assembly lines moves one more to China, or moves one more to India, not because they want to, but because they have to… because the regulatory changes they expected, that could have kept them competitive here, haven’t yet materialized.

Every action is a foundation for another action. Every business startup or expansion is the foundation for further growth.  If all this is postponed a year, think of the geometric results:  It isn’t just that people have one less year of that particular paycheck, that particular patent, that particular commute. 

Every year that these changes are postponed is a lost year, and everything that would have come from it will be weaker than it could have been, if Washington DC had struck while the iron was hot, on January 20, 2017, as the American people had every right to expect.

Maybe it’s partially because of different personalities; the president and the legislators have different styles. Maybe it’s partially because many in Congress don’t want to be seen as delivering a victory to a President they don’t like personally.

But they must rise above it. This shouldn’t be about personalities or styles or parties.  This country already suffered through eight dreadful years of minimal growth.  We desperately need the economic boom that only tax cuts and regulatory reductions can promote. 

Real people don’t have jobs, or can’t get a start on their careers, and won’t, until the legislation is in place. Real people can’t afford operations or treatments, and won’t, until Obamacare is repealed and pricing and insurance can get back to normal. Real people lose more and more years of savings, losing the compound interest that only an earlier start can provide, making retirement more difficult for themselves, and college attendance more difficult for their children.

Congress:

  • Repeal Destructive Regulations, NOW.
  • Repeal Obamacare, NOW.
  • And Cut Taxes, NOW.

America just doesn’t have time to waste.

Copyright 2017 John F. Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based Customs broker, international trade compliance trainer, writer and actor. His columns are regularly found in Illinois Review.

Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut and the IR URL and byline are included.

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1 COMMENT

  1. America is and has been managed for a long time by the
    2/4/6 year election cycle. The (mis)managers of our country are MAINLY interested in getting reelected and not in the
    long term best interests of the (former) Republic or its citizens.