Washington Can Do Better Than Gridlock

 

So the word on the street, certainly on Wall Street, is “gridlock.” Now we can debate whether political gridlock is in fact good (for the economy and markets), but the consensus take is that it’s the new status quo in divided-government Washington. Goldman Sachs, for instance, sees “no major changes on taxes . . . spending is likely to be extended at current levels . . . an infrastructure deal seems unlikely.”

That’s pretty representative of what most analysts, whether in Manhattan or Washington, are saying today. And maybe that’s the correct take. Lots of investigations by House Democrats and lots of tweets by President Trump. But no meaningful legislative action. On to 2020.

But if you squint a bit, it’s not so hard to see how we could do better than gridlock. As a note today from Capital Economics points out, “Both Trump and the Democrats appear to support an increase in federal infrastructure spending, and a bipartisan package of tax cuts aimed at low-income earners is another possibility.”

The idea of “Infrastructure Week” has become a joke, but Nancy Pelosi is already talking up the idea and seems to favor it over impeachment. And if a trillion-dollar plan is many repaired bridges too far, how about a down payment that’s a compromise structure-wise with the thinking of the Trump White House?

Moreover, why not a middle-class tax cut that’s a payroll tax cut, with Democrats maybe agreeing to extend some part of the Trump tax cut such as the business expensing provision (which some Dem economists also like)? It’s not as if there wouldn’t be plenty of Dem agenda items for the party’s 2020 candidate to run on, including Medicare for All or various cash payment schemes for lower-income Americans. And calls for more infrastructure, of course, as well as raising taxes on wealthier Americans. Of course. Reducing drug prices is also getting frequent mention as a possible avenue for bipartisanship.

Even a gridlocked Washington won’t be boring. There might be another SCOTUS justice to confirm at some point, and the economic/geopolitical clash between the US and China will continue. A slowing economy might escalate Trump’s criticism of the Powell Fed. Nothing boring about any of that.

Published in Economics, Politics
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There are 4 comments.

  1. Member

    If congress could just get back to passing a budget every year, that’d be a big victory. Think about how sad it is that getting them to serve their core function seems to far-fetched.

    • #1
    • November 7, 2018 at 12:31 pm
    • 4 likes
  2. Reagan
    iWe

    Even Trump is not stupid enough to think that passing a big infrastructure (pork) bill gets Democrats to lay off the attacks.

    I see no areas of agreement. Democrats do not care about policy: they do not want Trump to be seen as having won on anything – and they certainly do not want their own followers to think they have somehow compromised with Orange Man.

    The House will be one big quagmire. Nothing will happen there.

    Trump will go to town with judges, executive orders, and everything possible at the cabinet level. Democrats in the house will scream. c’est la vie.

    • #2
    • November 7, 2018 at 2:11 pm
    • 4 likes
  3. Coolidge

    Gridlock? Or Democratic legislative micromanagement of business, finance, education, sexuality, culture, and everything else.

    I think I prefer gridlock.

    • #3
    • November 7, 2018 at 2:55 pm
    • 1 like
  4. Coolidge

    Dont just do something! Stand there! Gridlock is the preferred method of governance, unfortunately the US has the only system where a gridlocked mode is possible.

    The government that governs least, governs best.

     

    • #4
    • November 8, 2018 at 12:47 am
    • Like