It's not as if the political dysfunction and discord that lead to past policy Armageddon in Washington has subsided. Clearly, Tuesday's stunning primary defeat of budget hawk and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to a tea party rival, brings a fresh round of political uncertainty to the capital.
But until the Cantor shocker, it had been going so much better, with none of the kind of heart-stopping, market-roiling policy gridlock on the order of the near-default of the Treasury or the infamous fiscal cliff. Which may help explain why the stock market was powering higher these days.
To be sure, there are plenty of things to worry if you own stocks. The U.S. economy is coming out of a nasty slump brought on by a dismal winter. The job market may have perked up a bit, but stalled wages are holding back consumer spending. After halting growth the last two years, corporate profits have stalled.
But lately there had been marked a drop in the level of fear-inducing in-fighting emanating from the nation's capital. That's according to the Policy Uncertainty Index, created by a team Stanford University economists who track the impact of policy uncertainty on business and the economy
The last time we visited the index, the country faced a made-up budgetary crisis that shut down the government and threatened to take a big bite out of gross domestic product. Prior spikes in the index accompanied the fiscal cliff of 2013 and the July 2011 threat to force the Treasury into default—a move that eventually cost Uncle Sam his pristine triple-A bond rating.
But those policy panic attacks had faded into distant memory, according to the index, which fell sharply last year after the government went back to work and has been trending lower since.