Legislate in May, then go away

Spring is coming! The phones in the office have been ringing. There are always some folks who have to renew their leases, move to new quarters, or start a new business.I have been traveling on projects extensively during the winter and get to see how other regions in the East are doing.I just spent five days in Washington, D.C. The city is hopping.Unlike most of America, office space in D.C. is leasing and things are well at the moment. K Street, home to the big lobbying firms, is bustling. But several merchants, restaurateurs, cabbies and others I talked with said things are still slow. Not as bad as 2009, but not like 2007 either. It struck me that this is true for most of us.But even folks in the District are looking over their shoulders at the looming deficit clouds.The deficit numbers are staggering – $180 million every hour. Currently the gross national debt is at $14 trillion. It is scheduled to increase by at least $1 trillion every year through 2020. How can this be? Where will it take us?The Federal Reserve’s eventual attempt to unwind the unprecedented monetary stimulus is a tricky proposition, hopefully keeping inflation under control.The rising price of oil and gasoline (I saw several pumps in D.C. over $5 per gallon for medium and premium) is a drag on economic recovery.Why do we talk about “core inflation” that does not include food or energy costs? Don’t we all have to eat? And we all consume energy in our daily existence.I just finished reading “Naked Emperors – The Failure of the Republican Revolution” by Scot Faulkner, the story of the Republican’s efforts to reform the excesses of the House of Representatives. It is quite a story of inertia, power politics, privilege and greed. Some reforms were made, but not enough, and when the reformers lost in 1996, many reforms were overturned.It does not provide much hope for the Republicans this session.Elections and other burdensI do not see any candidates in either major party who give me confidence that he or she has the intelligence to lead us back to a rational budget, an expanding economy, a shrinking role for government, a reasonable foreign policy, trim entitlements, ending America’s hegemony.I came away from my meetings with a strong sense that the current crew is not up to the task in front of us. Term limits, which I did not favor, now seem like a necessity. The same is true for campaign finance limits.National Public Radio and The Wall Street Journal reported that the winner of the 2012 presidential election will spend over $1 billion. Ouch!It is fair to say that will significantly limit the field of viable candidates. What does a presidential candidate have to promise – or give away – to raise $1 billion?The federal government is too big, too cumbersome, has too much inertia, and is way too expensive.What have we wrought?As a professional facilities manager, I have determined the biggest culprit is air conditioning.Before central air conditioning, nobody stayed in Washington, D.C., for the summer – it was too hot and muggy. They left in May and did not come back until late September. They went home. They interacted with folks on Main Street. They got off their high horses for three months. They didn’t spend tax dollars they didn’t have – in multibillion-dollar bundles.Maybe it is time to unplug the air conditioning in D.C.Bill Norton, president of Norton Asset Management, is a Counselor of Real Estate (CRE) and a Facilities Management Administrator (FMA) with the Building Owners and Managers Association. He can be reached atwbn@nortonnewengland.com.