It’s getting to where Washington D.C.’s manufactured crises are becoming so commonplace that they’re barely cause for concern anymore. Witness the so-called sequester, which began March 1 to a whole lot of media noise while the general public slept through it.
Despite President Obama’s cries of wolf — calling the sequester a disaster, though that simply didn’t happen — the U.S. economy chugged along en route to a bona fide recovery for reasons having nothing to do with a dysfunctional U.S. government.
Back in February, as the President and Congress were wringing their hands over the $85 billion across-the-board cuts to befall the federal government, the Commerce Department was announcing a 15.6 percent increase in new-home sales, the highest level since July 2008, just before the Great Recession. Then came the mandated spending cuts — which are undoubtedly hurting some people, including military personnel and their families — as the economy continued its upward trend. On March 5, just five days after the sequester took effect, the stock market hit an all-time high, then continued a bull run for days on end. And on March 8, the Labor Department reported an unemployment rate drop to 7.7 percent, its lowest level since December 2008 (the onset of the great recession).
Clearly, the economy is improving. Things aren’t perfect — Wall Street may be fully recovered, but Main Street isn’t, and there are still 12 million Americans out of work — but overall things are better, not because of but despite Washington. That leads us to wonder if either political party is saying anything that’s worth listening to. The Republicans have been saying the deficit must first come down before a real recovery takes hold, and yet this is a real recovery and the budget is nowhere close to balanced. And Obama discredited the Democrats’ perspective by pushing the panic button as the sequester approached, though the effects have proven to be of little consequence to most Americans.
Meanwhile, here in Las Vegas, there’s a little bit of the same thing going on. New businesses are opening not because of but despite our divided community efforts. The quasi-governmental agency, Chamber of Commerce, for example, still struggles, and yet an upsurge in retail growth is occurring nevertheless.
So in the grand and glorious debate over public vs. private enterprise, score one for free enterprise. Sure, government has an important role in regulating business and industry — unbridled capitalism can be brutal, even dangerous to the greater public good — but sometimes government just needs to get out of the way. And lately, “out of the way” seems the best economic remedy of all.