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April 20, 2005
Thoughts On The State Of The U.S. Economy...
... from John Irons and Arnold Kling in the newest edition of the Wall Street Journal Online's Econoblog feature. John laments the impotence of fiscal policy as a stabilization tool --
This is one of the real risks of the deficit -- that we won't be able to use spending or tax policy to soften an economic downturn.
-- but if you ask me, this goes in the column of backhanded blessings. For my money, tax and expenditure policy should always be about the long run.
For his part, Arnold makes an observation that I have long felt deserves more consideration than it gets:
I think that for the last year and a half, Sarbanes-Oxley has had a major dampening effect. In any year, a large corporation can pursue no more than two or three key initiatives. Senior management doesn't have time to pay attention to more than that and still run the baseline business. And without senior management focus, people lower down cannot get cooperation across departments or division, which you usually need to execute a new initiative. For a lot of companies, Sarbanes-Oxley compliance has been one of the top three priorities for the past year or two, which means that at most one or two other major projects have been on the plate.
I'd really be interested in seeing some serious post mortem on this.
UPDATE: Thanks to Roland Patrick for point me to his post at Let's Fly Under the Bridge related to the effects of Sarbanes-Oxley. In his post he links to an Orange County Register article on the topic, which includes this observation:
Since that regulatory law passed in 2002, hundreds of publicly traded companies, including several in Orange County, have taken this step, which is simpler and cheaper than buying out shareholders and going private. Hundreds more could soon follow, says attorney Thomas Magill, partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in Irvine, who assisted Anacomp in going dark.
If you are interested in this topic, read the whole thing.
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