A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a group of prominent business leaders that I’m still mulling over. We were talking about the intersection between business and government, and they were pretty unhappy. The chief target of their displeasure wasn’t any of the usual suspects, though.
Instead of lambasting taxes or regulations, they were most worried about uncertainty in Washington. Their business prospects, they argued, are being hurt by the inability of the political class — and in particular Congress and the White House — to come to terms on pretty much anything: from the year-end package of tax hikes and spending cuts known as the “fiscal cliff” to fixing the health care system to resolving our disagreements over immigration.
Now, uncertainty is baked into our political system.
As soon as a law passes, hundreds of lobbyists head for Capitol Hill to try to change it, and scores more descend on executive-branch agencies to see if they can nudge the rules implementing the law as they’re written. Legislation that seems buried for good in Congress can abruptly rise from the dead and pass both houses, while laws that passed easily a few years ago suddenly find themselves imperiled.