Editor’s note: Red tape may be good for the Washington area

January 5, 2014

Face it, we’re different here. In Washington, as much as we might not like to admit it, we like red tape. We know how to make money from tiny changes in regulations. Contracting rules don’t scare us. We roll up our sleeves and figure them out.

That’s our first-mover advantage.

So perhaps the most momentous news of the year just past was what happened at the very end: Congress approved a spending plan.

Now you can argue with the details. The belt tightening will hurt, and it likely will hurt the Washington area disproportionately. But at least we have our playbook, and we can begin to build a real game plan.

You can already see the wheels turning. In recent weeks, our pages have been full of stories about companies and people making course corrections for what may come. The clouds of uncertainty are beginning to clear. Indeed, the foundation of many of the local economic forecasts we gathered for this week’s cover story is the realization that sequestration and shutdowns will not be part of the region’s vocabulary in 2014.

The bet here is that we’ve turned a corner. Whether you like the new health care act or not, the rules are falling in place. Businesses are adjusting. Gradually, our choices will become more obvious.

Now, maybe the government can wrap up work on those Dodd-Frank financial reform regulations, giving the banking industry more clarity on how it can make money — or not. Perhaps then, all that money not being lent can begin to circulate again.

There are hurdles to come, for sure. Federal Reserve policies will change, elections will happen. But do not underestimate the power of the Washington bureaucracy when the machinery starts moving again.

It has a way of creating its own momentum.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.
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