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The Sequester: Congress Forgets Its Safe Word | The Economist

Posted on the 02 March 2013 by Kzawadzki @kzawadzki

Clearly, if we’re looking for an incentive that will drive politicians with deep disagreements over the role of government to compromise on a budget, an artificial catastrophic budget deadline isn’t it. The sequester, after all, doesn’t punish politicians; it punishes the voters. Voters will be unable to do anything in response for another two years, and when they do, their reactions will depend on who they blame, which means politicians will spend their time making accusations. What we need here is a negative incentive that punishes politicians directly. And what do politicians seek to avoid?

Unfortunately it’s probably not possible or desirable to craft a deal under which every sitting congressman and senator pledges to resign if they haven’t agreed to a budget deal by a date certain. Throwing all the bums out at once appears attractive, but in fact a lot of useful and hard-won information about our elected officials generated over their years of campaigning and service would get thrown away; the public would be forced to elect a complete slate of unknowns, and that’s actually very costly and inefficient. An alternative might be a one-time federal election fund, kicking in if Congress hadn’t approved a budget by a certain date, that would dole out large matching grants to all challengers in every congressional district in the country. Maybe that would be a prospect that would strike fear into the hearts of representatives and party organisations. In any case, what we need are political disincentives that punish politicians for failing to govern, not budget disincentives that punish the country for having a dysfunctional government. We’ve suffered enough for that already.

via The sequester: Congress forgets its safe word | The Economist.


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