Albert Einstein said famously that "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

Everyone does this periodically. But the current White House and Congress seem particularly good at it.

For instance, in just the few weeks prior to going on summer vacation, Congress passed and the White House signed two bills highly hostile to business and economic vitality.

These two bills were not anything in scope compared to health care and financial regulatory restructuring, so they received only modest notice. But they are clearly part of a pattern of decisions hostile to private-sector job creation.

In the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act, Congress allocated $26.1 billion to expanded Medicaid coverage and to pay teachers.

To pay for it, the bill imposes $9.8 billion in new taxes on overseas transactions by American companies.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the bill passed Aug. 5 and signed by the president five days later "would impose draconian tax increases on American worldwide companies that would hinder job creation, decrease the competitiveness of American business and deter economic growth."

The chamber noted that the law would change "longstanding international tax law, the impact of which has never been given proper consideration in hearings or other bills." In other words, though the backers of the bill said it merely closed a tax loophole benefitting business, it was another Congressional rush job.

 Within days of that bill, the Congress passed and the president signed a $600 million package to add 1,500 agents to the U.S.-Mexico border. This was an effort that neither Democrats or Republicans could resist.

But just how were these agents paid for?

Oddly, they were paid for by nearly doubling the fees overseas companies pay to employ workers in the U.S.

In practice, the $2,000 to $2,250 per-worker increase for companies with more than 50 percent of their workers on visas will impact a handful of large Indian outsourcing companies such as Infosys and Wipro. These companies often perform work that U.S. companies cannot do themselves. Yet the primary backer of the bill, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, referred to one of these large and important Indian companies as a "chop shop."

The reaction in India was dismay.

“While the full impact of the bill is yet to be assessed, we think it goes against the notion of free trade and is discriminatory in nature," Wipro said in a statement.

“This move puts barriers to trade and would also adversely impact talent flow to the U.S., which we think may have greater economic repercussions," it said.

So what could Congress do to break the pattern?

It could fast-track trade agreements with the U.S.’s South American friends such as Colombia, thus opening new markets to American companies.

It could clarify its future plans on tax policy including the Bush tax cuts and the estate tax that has been hanging in limbo for the entire year.

It could invest more in basic scientific research rather than picking and choosing political favorites in energy and other sectors.

That's a good start and a needed break from what clearly is not helping to restore business confidence and job creation.


Brad Bollinger is Business Journal editor in chief and associate publisher. He can be reached at 707-521-4251 or