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I’ll say it again: Gridlock is good!

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I’ll say it again:  Gridlock is good!

“Least productive Congress?” Fantastic!

I’ve mentioned this subject before, but recent news prompts me to recur to it, given all the blather about the last Congress being promulgated in the liberal media and the derision to which Speaker John Boehner is being subjected by conservatives.

Do something for me.  Google the phrase “Least Productive Congress in History.”  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

"It is passing strange that more actions by a legislature, regardless of the substance of those actions, is somehow assumed to be a sign of vigor and virtue." 

If you do, you’ll see a long list of almost identical headlines reaching back to January 2013 (and perhaps further…I couldn’t stomach another few search pages of such nonsense) proclaiming that the most recent Congress, the 113th, was on track to be the “ least productive.”  In fact, the January 2013 headline said the same thing about 112th Congress.  This is apparently of some significance to the media, given the vast array of news outlets pounding the very same theme.

The premise of such critical pronouncements is that “productivity” in a Congress can be measured by the actions it took – bills passed, confirmations completed, etc.  And, clearly, the implication of such a measurement is that more “productivity” – i.e., more actions taken – is a good thing, and less “productivity” is a bad thing.

Leaving aside the blindingly obvious fact that legislating is not the same as widget-making – output per unit of labor is key in the latter, but is utterly irrelevant in the former – it is passing strange that more actions by a legislature, regardless of the substance of those actions, is somehow assumed to be a sign of vigor and virtue.  I mean, think about it.  If a given Congress were to pass only a single, profoundly important piece of legislation – something like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – and nothing else, should it be compared unfavorably to a Congress that passes hundreds of miniscule revisions to the already byzantine tax code?  The latter could certainly be said to more “productive,” but so what?  Would the former be held up to ridicule for “merely” passing a monumental and transformative bill that provided justice for millions of Americans?

And perhaps more importantly, often it is what Congress does not do that matters the most.  For those dwindling few of us who believe in limited government and the federalist structure of the country, Congress is already way too productive in finding ways to interfere with our lives.  Prudence and reticence are the virtues we revere, not volume.

However, on a more practical level, the proof that gridlock is good – at least as far as our fiscal and economic health is concerned – has just been highlighted by data from the Treasury department.  Incredibly, the federal budget as a percentage of GDP has now fallen to very near its historical average for the past 50 years.  In 2014, the federal budget was just below 20% of GDP, while the historical average is 19%.

Why?  Because Congress has not been able to agree on ways to undo the “sequester” imposed on the budget during the debt ceiling battle in 2011 (there have been some tweaks, but nothing major).  There are other factors of course, including low interest rates which reduce the debt service element of the budget, but the primary driver has been a clamp on new spending.  Additionally, no major regulatory burdens have been imposed by this “unproductive” Congress (the Administration is, sadly, a different matter).

And lo and behold, the economy is finally roaring back to life!  Who woulda thunk it?

Sure, the sequester has some negative aspects to it as well, particularly in terms of defense spending.  And it can’t go on forever, since priorities change and needs arise that need to be dealt with.  But the bottom line is that since this spending cap was imposed, things have gotten better both fiscally and economically.  Surely that is a lesson that needs to be learned.

So, if indeed the 112th and 113th Congresses were the “least productive in history,” I say bring on an equally unproductive 114th!

All together now:  Gridlock is Good.

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Angus DuBois
Angus DuBois
Angus DuBois is the nom de plume of an entrepreneur of 20 years who, in cowardly fashion, prefers to keep his/her business identity a secret. Comments can be forwarded to angus@nexxuspublishing.com.

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