Friday, January 29, 2010

A Paralyzing Presidency

The U.S. economy ought to be flying out of recession. Yet bank lending is sluggish. Companies refuse to hire. Business is going elsewhere to raise capital: China last year outstripped the U.S. as a center for initial public offerings. The market gyrates on Washington's latest political drama.

A venture capitalist recently remarked to me that the uncertainty the administration has created is "nothing short of paralyzing." Nobody will invest in an industry that might be the next to be overtaxed, overregulated, or publicly disemboweled.

Add to that uncertainty the administration's new populist bent, and it's a recipe for a continued capital freeze. "People in the economy are thinking about whether to invest or take risks when what they are seeing are early signs of Hugo Chávez economics," says Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan. . . .

It seems to me this is a reasonable observation. Investing in the creation of new productive economic activities is a risky business. Uncertainty about what Congress and the President might do that would further burden business means that creative new productive economic activities looks even more risky. By the time someone is able to realize in some future moment the fruits of a commitment today to new economic activities, the opportunity to earn a profit may have been burdened away by new actions and new policies of the President and the Congress.

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