The Certainty of Uncertainty

Uncer­tain­ty seems to be one of the favorite words for repub­li­cans to pull out when they are try­ing to explain why a par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion is bad. Last month they were very con­cerned about the uncer­tain­ty busi­ness had to deal with over the up in the air sta­tus of the Bush tax cuts.

The one cer­tain­ty of this uncer­tain­ty is that it is a load of crap.

In the first place, when was there ever certainty?

Fur­ther, the exten­sion of the tax cuts for two years appar­ent­ly did away with the uncer­tain­ty. Any busi­ness per­son can tell you how he or she only con­sid­ers the next two years when con­tem­plat­ing invest­ing tens of thou­sands, or hun­dreds of thou­sands, or mil­lions of dol­lars. Even if the two years was enough cer­tain­ty, that “two years of cer­tain­ty” only exist­ed for a few days. Then the two years start­ed and now it is less.

And if extend­ing the tax cuts for two years did away with uncer­tain­ty, would not have allow­ing the tax cuts to lapse have also done away with uncer­tain­ty? I did not hear any repub­li­can men­tion­ing that.

Anoth­er exam­ple is the health care reform. It passed. It is law. That is as cer­tain as it is going to get (again, not all that cer­tain, but…). Repub­li­cans have gone on and on about how they are going to undo the law with few specifics about how they would change it. Who is intro­duc­ing uncertainty?

There have been rum­blings from Repub­li­cans to not vote to raise the debt ceil­ing. What might hap­pen if the debt ceil­ing is not raised? Seems like there is plen­ty of uncer­tain­ty there.

There has been enough rhetoric on both sides to sug­gest that it is not beyond the pale that the gov­ern­ment could well be shut down some­time in the next two years if agree­ment on bud­gets can not be reached. A gov­ern­ment shut­down presents all kinds of uncertainty.

Final­ly, soon­er or lat­er, the fed­er­al debt, if allowed to con­tin­ue grow­ing at present rates (or even Bush rates!), will cause sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems for the US econ­o­my. Most agree we are still sev­er­al tril­lion dol­lars away (a few years) before such prob­lems become plau­si­ble, but no one real­ly knows. The debt is prac­ti­cal­ly the def­i­n­i­tion of uncer­tain­ty. But Repub­li­cans con­tin­ue to pre­tend that the deficit can be solved with dis­cre­tionary spend­ing cuts and tweak­ing of enti­tle­ments. It can­not be solved this way. Until the deficit is seri­ous­ly addressed, there is no end of uncertainty.

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