from National Review and Jay Cost,  Congress Wasn’t Designed to Handle Tax Policy

To put it bluntly, Congress is not well suited for national economic planning, which is basically what pro-growth tax policies boil down to. As a matter of fact, Congress outsources a lot of economic planning — like environmental regulation — to the bureaucracy, because it knows it is not capable of handling such matters for itself. It keeps tax policy within the legislature primarily because that doubles as a way to distribute political benefits to key constituencies.

The problem is an institutional one. It is really not accurate to say that Congress is a “national legislature,” for there is no member in either chamber who is elected by the nation at large. Instead, it is the meeting place of representatives of discrete geographical constituencies. This inclines the legislature to parochial concerns rather than national ones — a tendency that is exacerbated by the fact that senators are apportioned equally among the states, regardless of population. Moreover, our campaign-finance system, whereby those who contribute most to political campaigns are those with pressing business before the Congress, gives each member of Congress yet another incentive to view policy problems from the perspective of a very small slice of the nation.

This design made sense when the Constitution was ratified, when there was little expectation that Congress would take charge of planning or directing the national economy. And indeed, seeing as how this was still a generation before the Industrial Revolution really began in the United States, there was little by way of an economy to plan. GDP in 1790 was just $5 billion in today’s dollars.

If you look at the relatively narrow set of congressional powers enumerated by the Constitution, you will not see any clause that specifically sanctions promoting national economic development. Congress had to read between the lines to acquire that authority.


Thinking on markets and the economy and the pitfalls of central planning have evolved to explain this dilemma.  Politically, central planning offers seductions for political influence and increases opportunities for corruption even when sanctioned by regulatory structure.