Here are four essentials we need to strive to recoup if we are to preserve the gains of the last 237 years and get back on course: They are: consistency, predictability, stability and, most importantly, confidence. Without all four in place as guiding principles, our future is at risk.
Here are four essentials we need to strive to recoup if we are to preserve the gains of the last 237 years and get back on course: They are: consistency, predictability, stability and, most importantly, confidence. Without all four in place as guiding principles, our future is at risk. Whether we get these four basic fundamentals of economic growth, political sanity and national well-being back is the key issue of our time. It is in the hands of all three branches of government, who share in the blame for our current condition, but who are the only entities that can right the ship of state.
Individuals and businesses require consistency of treatment by government if they are to prosper. Tax laws and their application that jump back-and-forth at the whim of Congress, the Treasury and IRS, for example, make everyone wary of making definitive financial decisions that benefit all. Justice Department, Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulatory agency enforcement policies and administrative agency contracting and grant processes cannot change on a dime if we are to move forward in a positive way. Antitrust investigations, insider trading prosecutions, environmental edicts, healthcare reform, etc., have to treat similarly situated businesses and individuals uniformly. Increasingly, they do not.
Ask anyone what any of the three branches of government is likely to do next regarding any major matter and they will tell you they don’t have a clue. Throwing down the gauntlet and bringing government to a screeching halt when it comes time to raise the national debt ceiling is an example of one of these sudden turns the political class indulges in that leave both individuals and businesses wondering whether they should go ahead with their plans or put them on hold until they see how the latest manufactured “crisis” plays out. This uncertainty stymies investors and causes hesitation among all societal classes and economic sectors.
Nations prosper only when they are stable societies. The recent Supreme Court decisions concerning voting rights and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) are throwing the country into turmoil because of the glaring gaps they leave. Regardless of whether one agrees with these momentous rulings, they leave the country scratching its collective head and are certain to generate a barrage of lawsuits in order to clarify what the court knowingly left confused. It was irresponsible to proceed without clarification of the obvious issues left hanging. A great example: Thousands of employers in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area have employees who reside in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia. The former two jurisdictions sanction same-sex marriage while Virginia does not. Denying same-sex partners in the same workplace comparable benefits based on residence is going to cause a lot of anger and resentment not conducive to a smoothly functioning workplace or a growing business. Hiring decisions, too, are going to be adversely impacted by the DOMA decision. The court could have avoided all of this if it had considered the disruptive consequences of its ruling by incorporating correctives to these predictable gaps into its decision. Leaving everyone hanging is irresponsible and very expensive.
Page 2 of 2 - Confidence
All of which leads to a vote of no-confidence in government by citizens, business owners and potential investors. Consumers lacking confidence in their futures spend less, and in an economy that relies on consumer spending for 70 percent of GDP, this is a serious problem. Skittish business owners defer hiring and hesitate to reinvest earnings because they cannot know what government will do next in taxes, employee rights, environmental enforcement, fiscal cliffs, industry favoritism, etc. Investors cannot invest with any certainty that government won’t intervene — or not intervene — to put their money at risk. The interest on student debt might double overnight unless Congress acts … or it might not, throwing millions of college students and their families into a cesspool of uncertainty and worry. This is no way to run a country.
Without confidence in the future, we have no hope of pulling out of the tepid, unacceptable growth curve we have been on since the Great Recession, or of creating the millions of decent-paying jobs we need to halt the decline of the middle class and the descent of millions more Americans into poverty. Forget about boosting or bootstrapping people who are struggling back into the middle class.
As former Redskins coach George Allen used to say: “The future is now.” Government, are you listening?
Richard Hermann is a part-time Canandaigua resident and Canandaigua Academy graduate. Email him care of Messenger Post Media at email@example.com.