Of all the reasons that business and the right adduce for the failure of the American economy to rebound, "uncertainty" is surely the most bogus.
Their definition of "uncertainty," for starters, is entirely political. They are not referring to the uncertainty that comes with the weather or to the uncertainty we experienced during the meltdown of 2008, when the banks weren't certain how many worthless credit-default swaps were held by the other banks and companies they dealt with -- an uncertainty that caused inter-bank transactions to shudder to a halt. They are not even referring to the uncertainty that attends the question of when the American consumer will start consuming again.
No, the uncertainty in question is entirely political in nature. It refers only to acts undertaken by Democrats in general and the president in particular that will have economic consequences. Thus Dodd-Frank and the health-care reform act engender uncertainty.
But why do they engender uncertainty? Many decisions on how to implement the act are left to the appropriate regulators, but that's the case with most major legislation. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 left many details to tax authorities; the Bush addition of drug benefits to Medicare did the same. Besides, many of the uncertainties that attend Dodd-Frank and health-care reform exist because the very same Republicans and business groups who bemoan uncertainty are challenging the acts. How much uncertainty has been caused by the lawsuits brought by right-wing state officials to strike down the individual mandate in health-care reform? How much uncertainty about Dodd-Frank regulations has been caused by banks lobbying the rule-writing process? For the right to challenge these acts and then complain of uncertainty is a little like the kids who kill their parents and then seek mercy because they're orphans.
If there's uncertainty about government policy in America today, it's largely because the two parties are so far apart on most every significant issue that a shift in governmental control almost guarantees some shifts in policy. At the moment, and forever more, tax rates are uncertain because the two parties have different ideas about how high they'll be set. It's hard to imagine the level of taxes won't remain uncertain so long as we hold elections between two parties whose views on taxes are so different.
It follows that the one way to eliminate uncertainty is to eliminate elections. The next time a Republican complains about uncertainty holding back the economy, why not suggest that if Republicans didn't contest Barack Obama's re-election, a huge source of uncertainty would instantly be dispelled. If uncertainty is really the problem, that should fix it right away.
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