The Myth of the One-Shot Fix

One reliable sign of a defective economic-policy idea is having to prefix your proposal with something to the effect of, “Hey, guys, here’s this really great thing we should do, but let’s only do it once!” Whether it’s Andy Stern’s nonsensical one-time profit-repatriation tax break or Mitch Daniels’s one-time payroll-tax holiday, neither is terribly convincing.

Each has the odor of gimmickry about it, and neither represents a long-term solution to what ails the U.S. economy. (What ails the U.S. economy, you ask? The push for a Swedish-scale state populated by Americans instead of Swedes.) These one-shot cures are, at best, temporary analgesics, at worst distractions from the laborious but needful task that awaits us, which is a deep and necessarily disruptive restructuring of the American economy, our public finances, and the relationship between state and market. The vector of our debt-to-GDP ratio is pointed like a poisoned harpoon toward 100 percent, we’re developing an entrenched ruling class in Washington with incomes more than twice the national average, and we are suffering from disintegrating public institutions, not least of them the public schools, the failure of which is a mixed blessing to the extent that if people under 25 were better educated they’d be locking their parents into pillories for leaving them with this mess.

So, with all due respect to Governor Daniels, whom I admire: A one-time tax break ain’t gonna do it.

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