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Washington Needs to Abandon the Quick Fix

by Matt Mitchell on January 13, 2012

in Economic Policy

In a strange new ritual, Washington routinely grinds to a halt to deal with some crisis or another. One moment it’s a looming tax hike, the next a government shutdown. One week it’s a threatened default on our national debt; the next, triggered sequesters or benefit cuts.

The common thread in these episodes: a politician with a quick fix. Each aims to address our government’s fiscal problems without significant policy reform or sacrifice by any American (voter). And, ironically, though each was designed to avoid short-term economic pain, the gimmicks have only deepened our fiscal hole and made genuine economic recovery less likely. The parade of clever ideas has ensnared Washington in a never-ending cycle of self-inflicted crises and hyped-up doomsday deadlines. “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

That’s me, writing in The Hill. I also touch on the Bush tax cuts and highlight new research on the economic consequences of policy uncertainty.

  • AliMichelle

    It seems that Congress is incapable of making the hard decisions that would result in a more permanent fix to our fiscal problems. Politicians are inherently shortsighted.  

  • Chad

    I won’t talk about the “good old days” of politics, or act like today’s Congress is particular more partisan than any other (that may be the case, but that’s one of those claims that I think every generation makes), but what role does the notion of ‘legislative gridlock’ play in halting the development of meaningful solutions to problems?

    To elaborate a bit, I look back at the BRAC commissions and see that as an imperfect, but generally clever and well-designed means by which to avoid some of the worst characteristics of political economy. Contrasting that with the “automatic trigger” resulting from the failure of the ‘super-committee’ to reach a deal, I can’t help but be pessimistic. 

    The latter seems to be the worst example of compromise, where the only policy items each side sacrifices are those that are political liabilities and not merely a slightly less desirable policy outcome. 

    To sum up a bit of a rambling post, how do we capture the benefit of meaningful compromise (represented by the best creators of gridlock, namely, checks and balances) while still getting Congress to “think big?”

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