Ed Driscoll

Henry Waxman's Knowledge Problem

Clearly, that topic could cover an infinite number of blog posts and articles. But in the Washington Examiner, Glenn Reynolds narrows the focus down to how the future vagaries of ObamaCare — and current legislation — impacts American corporations and trips up the best laid plans of nostrils and man:

Hayek’s insight into economics and regulation is often called “The Knowledge Problem,” and it is a very powerful notion. But recent events suggest that it’s not just the economy that regulators don’t understand well enough — it’s also their own regulations.

This became apparent when various large businesses responded to the enactment of Obamacare by taking accounting steps to reflect tax changes brought about by the new health care legislation. The additional costs created by Obamacare, conveniently enough, weren’t going to strike until later, after the November elections.

But both Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and Securities and Exchange Commission regulations require companies to account for these changes as soon as they learn about them. As the Atlantic’s Megan McArdle wrote:

“What AT&T, Caterpillar, et al did was appropriate. It’s earnings season, and they offered guidance about , um, their earnings.”So once Obamacare passed, massive corporate write-downs were inevitable.

They were also bad publicity for Obamacare, and they seem to have come as an unpleasant shock to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who immediately scheduled congressional hearings for April 21, demanding that the chief executive officers of AT&T, John Deere, and Caterpillar, among others, come and explain themselves.

Obamacare was supposed to provide unicorns and rainbows: How can it possibly be hurting companies and killing jobs? Surely there’s some sort of Republican conspiracy going on here!

More like a confederacy of dunces. Waxman and his colleagues in Congress can’t possibly understand the health care market well enough to fix it. But what’s more striking is that Waxman’s outraged reaction revealed that they don’t even understand their own area of responsibility – regulation — well enough to predict the effect of changes in legislation.

Heh. Read the whole thing, indeed.™

Related: “Liberal Fantasies vs. Economic Reality.”

Though to be fair, there’s nothing “liberal,” in any sense of the word, about Henry Waxman.