Congress, president have failed our nation, economy

Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 04:12 PM.

What has caused this to happen, at least partly, is that our executive and legislative branches of government have fallen prey to what leadership scholars call decision-making biases. Flawed decisions were made about the sequester by people in both branches — including the president himself, members of Congress, and the members of the Super Committee as well as others.

One decision making bias that is evident is called the "Confirmation" bias. This bias causes decision-makers to favor information that supports their preconceptions. One preconception that caused this bad decision was that sequestration would never happen because of its across-the-board distastefulness. Everyone was wrong on that one.

Another bias evident by decision-makers in this sequester comedy of errors is called the "Regression to the Mean" bias. This bias occurs because decision-makers typically assume a future outcome can be predicted by an outcome from the past with a similar set of circumstances. While budget battles have solved in the past albeit at the brink, they were solved nonetheless.

Two more decision-making biases that are evident in many of the decisions our politicians make, including the sequester decision, are the "Illusion of Control" and "Discounting the Future" biases. Illusion of Control occurs when decision-makers believe they can influence an event when, in fact, they have little to no control over the outcome. The Discounting the Future bias occurs when decision-makers consider short term benefits as having more value than long term ones. Both of these final two decision-making biases plague our nation’s politics and are quite evident in the sequester "follies" in which we now find ourselves.

Regardless of whether you believe sequestration is a national milestone or a millstone, Congress and the president are likely, just as they have done in the past, to kick America’s budget and spending "cans" further down the road in post-sequestration "fixes."

I could be wrong that sequestration will happen tomorrow. Yet while the "fixes" to sequestration that are sure to come may help with easing the impact of local furloughs on our friends and neighbors, such bad decisions to delay the inevitable spending cuts will just assure us all of more Discounting the Future bias in our so-called leaders — and the incumbent decision-making failures that will continue to plague our economy and our nation.

Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at 

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