Nobody’s surprised that politicians make shortsighted decisions. They have elections to win. Voters often claim to want limited government, but the evidence suggests they love government largess even more, and this puts elected officials in a tough spot.
What’s changed in America is that leaders who aren’t in politics — the very people you’d expect to take a sober, math-based view of these things — are suddenly celebrating short-term thinking as the only responsible course.
Write down the name of every CEO who came to Washington to whine about the breakdown in our political system and ask them what they plan to do next. How are they going to pressure Washington to get the nation’s fiscal system back in order for the long haul? You won’t hear back from many, because virtually none of them plans to do a thing.
Fixing our long-term problems would be painful and unpopular, and they have no stomach for that. There’s the next quarter to think about.
Add to this a press corps that has all but refused to cover our coming fiscal nightmare, and you have what amounts to a conspiracy of silence, or maybe stupidity. Either way, virtually everyone in this country with the power to persuade has lost the willingness to look beyond next Tuesday.
Nobody liked the spending cuts wrapped into the fiscal cliff. Democrats don’t like spending cuts in general, and Republicans were rightly upset that most of the cutting came from defense and none from entitlements. But at least Congress would have been forced to reduce federal spending, the one thing we really need.
According to CBO projections, going over the cliff would have hurt in the short term, but within a year would have left the economy stronger, bringing unemployment down to 5.5 percent by 2018.
Five years may seem like eternity to the day traders in Congress and their enablers on Wall Street. But it will be here before you know it. Just ask the Greeks.