Nowhere is the trend of kicking the can down the road more prevalent than in government as politicians' goal of being reelected takes front and center. This has reached a point where those in office are surrendering their better judgment as they go seeking jobs at any cost. We constantly see government bargaining with and making concessions to companies like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) to locate facilities in their state. This is often done just to gain a few jobs with little thought to the long-term consequences. Sometimes it is exempting sales tax, sometimes it is giving the company free utility build-outs or forgiving property taxes. I use Amazon as an example because it is an exploiter of the brick-and-mortar stores that line the streets of our cities and neighborhoods.
The sweet allure of getting and receiving the benefits while setting back the negatives, this story is not new or is the desire from which it flows. It is often the catalyst of bad policy; this is even apparent when it comes to the Affordable Care Act or what is commonly known as Obamacare. After promises the ACA would lower healthcare cost while extending coverage to millions of Americans, the decision was made to "phase in" the program starting with a small penalty to those who choose not to participate. In just a few years, we have seen healthcare cost soar and the penalties become substantial moving Obamacare towards the brink of failure. As usual, whoever is handed the task of cleaning up such a mess is faced with the unpopular task that will leave many people unhappy.
By giving some companies advantages, states may be lowering the ability of others to compete, and in the long run, they often lose more jobs than are created in the short term. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, years ago, the city backed a bond and the loan to build a massive hanger at the airport for an air-freight company named Kitty Hawk. It promised a slew of new jobs when it located its hub in the city. The company is now bankrupt, and the jobs are gone. The taxpayers of Fort Wayne are now paying for an empty hanger that they are trying to lease at an aggressively low price. This hurts those private investors and property owners that lease building space as they are now forced to compete against the government to which they are forced to pay taxes.
Estimates Can Be Very, Very Wrong!
The Devil is in the details when these so-called "pay you later" deals are crafted, and when dealing with the Devil we often pay a great price. It is not uncommon to find promises broken and estimates way off the mark as to final cost. Sadly, as we move toward president-elect Trump taking office in later this month, the National Debt Clock is fast approaching the $20 trillion mark. The chart above predicted that by 2019, the national debt would top $12 trillion. Boy, they really missed that one! Projections made by the government or any group predicting budgets based on events that may or may not happen at some future date are simply that, projections or predictions and not fact. This means that such numbers are totally unreliable.
The lesson is that delayed payment should be viewed as sidestepping reality rather than a solution. Short-sighted attempts to sidestep real structural failures and problems often fail. Real problems must be addressed with real solutions not just promises of future action or put off until a later date. Unfortunately not taking the proper steps often causes more problems down the road. This brings to mind the words of Winston Churchill who said, "The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences." My point is, we too are entering the dark and dangerous place where we must pay the piper.