Barron’s D.C. man ponders the staying power of bad laws

Jim McTague‘s latest “D.C. Current” column in Barron’s explains why no one should hold his breath waiting for Congress to get rid of the so-called Affordable Care Act or the Dodd-Frank financial regulations.

The Obamacare and Dodd-Frank laws — proud spawn of the Democratic Party — very well could turn into the economy-killing monsters that Republican critics claim they are. Nevertheless, investors had better try their best to accommodate these two problem children for the long haul. Once a law — even a bad one — is on the books, it’s an epic task for any Congress to repeal it. Tweaking a bad law along the way through amendment or legal interpretation to “improve” it can make the statute even worse, but that’s usually what happens.

Prohibition comes immediately to mind as a stupendously bad law with staying power. The 18th Amendment outlawing booze was passed in 1919. Congress didn’t repeal the repressive measure until 1933.

A more recent example is the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980, the xenophobic brainchild of Republican senators Malcolm Wallop of Wyoming and Barry Goldwater of Arizona. They tried to repeal it in 1984 — just four years later. Congress merely amended the statute and made it more onerous. …

… Flawed laws, such as Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, are like embarrassing tattoos: easy to obtain, hell to remove.

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