Change comes slowly to Washington

It might be just past day 100 of the new administration, but at least in the halls of Congress and downtown on K Street, it...

It might be just past day 100 of the new administration, but at least in the halls of Congress and downtown on K Street, it sure seems like we are back to business as usual. We just learned, thanks to the Wall Street Journal and other publications, that the “cash for clunkers” legislation, in which drivers could get sizeable government rebates if they sold their older gas guzzlers and purchased new, greener, more fuel efficient vehicles, wasn’t really what we thought it was after all. The well-intentioned idea was to get car sales moving while reducing greenhouse gases. Sounds good to me.

But, alas, too good to be true. According to the Journal, the legislation is really about helping the Detroit three companies move their trucks off their lots. Those getting the biggest and easiest rebates would be people turning in large trucks for—wait for it—new trucks that get as little as one- or two-miles to the gallon better mileage. As Jon Stewart might say, “What?”

The lesson here is that power is still wielded in Washington, even as the president attempts to work around the traditional power brokers. (See my previous blog post.) Maybe it’s just an expectations game. We want government to change all at once with the new president, but we forget that the old power structures are still in place. Things change slowly, and that’s probably good. It should take a consensus of the public, represented by their House and Senate members, to enact major changes to major issues, such as healthcare, social safety net programs, the economy, and national security. On the other hand, we can expect our elected officials to tell us what they are doing, and not hiding behind what sounds like a well-intentioned program.

-Don Goldberg, partner, Qorvis

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