Today’s Washington Post column by Allan Sloan includes the following:
– “Cash for Clunkers.” It was a well-intentioned plan that was supposed to increase consumer confidence, spur fuel efficiency, jump-start the auto industry and help create American jobs. Instead, it disproportionately benefited foreign automakers, which create fewer North American jobs per car dollar than the Detroit Three do. And sales came mostly from inventory, doing little to increase production and jobs. What’s more, by junking clunkers, the program removed many low-end vehicles from the used-car market, running up prices for the lower-income people who’d normally buy them. So we hurt the people most in need of help, while throwing taxpayer dollars down the drain. As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
It’s easy to throw up your hands when talking about “unintended consequences,’ but none of these can really be said to be “unforeseeable consequences.” In hindsight they look pretty obvious to me! And I believe that a little foresight would have revealed them as well.
We already have Environmental Impact Statements; they’re either famous or infamous, depending on your viewpoint. There are also financial impact statements: how much will this bill cost, or this revenue measure raise?
Maybe we need to have the Congress publish “Legislative Impact Statements” that list what the legislators think will happen, both good and bad, so that we can judge afterwards how much they thought about what they were doing?