Knee-jerk lawmaking

2012-08-03  

Despite (or because of?) the unproductive legislative drama often associated with major issues, U. S. lawmakers seem to enjoy creating instant bills for problems that we never knew we had.

Marco RubioMarco Rubio | U. S. SenateJust in time for the London Olympics, Senator Marco Rubio identified an injustice that has threatened the well-being of U. S. athletes since decades: They have to pay taxes on the prize money they bring home.

As it is decidedly mean to tax our national heroes, Rubio was quick to introduce a bill to exempt their winnings from taxation.

Questions come to mind, of course. How much taxes did past Olympians ever pay after sport-related deductions? Do we want to complicate the tax laws with another loophole to benefit about 100 people? If we exempt Olympians, do we equally cherish our Nobel prize winners, military heroes, police, firefighters, job creators?

But one rule of kneejerk lawmaking is that practical questions must not be asked. After all, it’s usually a matter of national pride (or national outrage).

Fortunately, its low efficiency prevents Congress from wreaking too much havoc: Out of 27,114 bills and resolutions introduced in 2005-2009, only 943 laws were enacted. (For comparison, during the same period, the German parliament considered 2,742 bills and resolutions and enacted 616 laws.)

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