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A number of pundits, including Ricochet’s own James Pethokoukis, have picked up Hillary Clinton’s “short-termism” meme and run with it. Clinton is claiming that U.S. CEOs are looking no further than the next quarter or two and — instead of making long-term investments in research and capital equipment — are repurchasing company shares, buying up other companies, or paying higher dividends to shareholders.
The hidden assumption is that there are lots of long-term investment opportunities out there to which the nation’s CEOs are blind. Individual companies often make mistakes, and those that make them too often usually don’t stay in business for long. If there truly are profit opportunities just waiting to be snapped up by entrepreneurs, then you’d expect lots of people to be taking advantage of them. Yet the country’s economy remains moribund. When most companies are retrenching rather than expanding, the explanation may be “animal spirits,” mass delusion, or shared stupidity as Clinton and Pethokoukis seem to be implying. However, before reaching for such vague reasons for large-scale trends, I tend to look for systemic causes — and “systemic” all too often translates into “government.”
Yesterday’s IBD op-ed makes a good case that Dodd-Frank is the culprit. But why limit ourselves when we’re in the middle of a perfect storm of anti-business legislation and regulation? In addition to Dodd-Frank, businesses have been saddled with:
- Obamacare, which increases the cost of employment
- Rising minimum wages (ditto)
- Exploding EPA regulations
- New regulatory agencies
- New taxes
- Higher existing taxes
- An unstable currency
- Regulations requiring banks to make bad loans to minority home buyers
- Government agencies that have been co-opted for political purposes
Given the anti-business climate that Obama has so carefully constructed, it hardly seems necessary to resort to explanations such as the “new normal,” malaise, income inequality, or “short-termism” to explain the country’s economic ills. The Left, of course, must offer up such inanities to exonerate their own policies. But why do conservative pundits like Pethokoukis feel the need to ignore the obvious and jump on the left’s bandwagon?