The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

October 3, 2012

The myth of divided government

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 — Is there anything good that has come from the last two years of deadlocked government in Washington? Will our current “My way or no way, no compromise” political culture have any beneficial result?

Maybe it is this: the myth that a divided and deadlocked government is a good thing for our country, that myth is dead.

We have heard that myth from some pretty smart people, though mostly by those who think government is the worst enemy of our country. Their myth-making goes something like this: “When Congress and the president are from different parties, they do not agree on much. So there are fewer new laws, programs and regulations, which drive up the costs of doing business or operating the government.”

Writing in 2003, the late William A. Niskanen, then chairman of the Cato Institute and former acting chairman of President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers, made a case for divided government. “Our federal government may work better (less badly) when at least one chamber of Congress is controlled by a party other than the party of the president.”

Niskanen made three major points to support his argument: (1) “The rate of growth of real (inflation-adjusted) federal spending is usually lower with divided government.”

(2) “The probability that a major reform will last is usually higher with a divided government because the necessity of bipartisan support is more likely to protect the reform against a subsequent change in the majority party.” He cited Reagan’s tax laws of 1981 and 1986.

(3) “The prospect of a major war is usually higher with a united government, and the current [Iraq] war makes that clear.”

Sounds good, but these arguments and the myth they support collapse against the exploding tsunami of political and financial crises that resulted from the current round of divided and deadlocked government. No comprehensive jobs plan, no deficit reduction plan, no agreement on taxes.

The threatened 10.0 Richter scale explosion that would accompany a fall off the “financial cliff” would be the crowning consequence of our divided government’s inability to act.

In the face of governmental indecision about taxes, spending, regulations, and fiscal policy, individuals and businesses find it almost impossible to plan for investment and spending.

They need decisions and actions from their government.

Sometimes, a decision, even one that is not the best, is better than no decision. I remember a veteran Army instructor shouting at me in officer training school as I was trying to direct a platoon attacking an enemy hill. “Come on Lieutenant, just make a decision, please. Even a bad one would be better than your just standing around thinking about it.”

Contrary to the divided government myth, when there is a crisis, government inaction is not a good thing

It is especially true for businesses trying to plan. “Just tell me what the rules are going to be,” is their plea.

A long time ago when I was a lawyer, one of my clients reacted to the legal advice I was giving him about what he could tell a prospective purchaser of a resort real estate lot. My legal jumbo had confused him. 

“If you will just tell me clearly what I can and cannot do, then I can go to work. Whatever the rules are I can find a way to sell. I can sell anything. Give me a bucket of horse droppings (not his word) and I can sell it. I will go door to door and find somebody who needs fertilizer for the flowers in her garden. But just tell me the rules, not all these maybes and on-the-other-hands.”

Americans are like my client. They need decisions and clear guidelines and they are not getting them from divided government.

One thing is for sure.

The myth about the great benefits of divided government can be put to rest.


Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • taylor.armerding.jpg Obama's equal pay exaggeration leads us all into danger

    The president's claims of national shame over gender-based pay inequity spring from distorted calculations, as well as some convenient political math.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Teens trading naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 12, 2014

  • Brent Laurenz If you want to vote in primary, you need to register to vote now

    RALEIGH – North Carolina voters will head to the polls on May 6 this year to cast ballots in important primary elections across the state.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Scott Mooneyham Heeding the voter fraud call in N.C.

    RALEIGH – Legislators found the findings outrageous.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Roots

    I took a few minutes over the weekend to enjoy our yard and the arrival of spring. There seems to be so much work that needs to be done, it is hard to decide what to do first. I am excited that I got to run my tiller through the garden. I didn’t go very deep, but I did at least break up the soil. I have a couple of raised beds and the soil in them was in very good shape. I didn’t plant my peas and now after the big rain we got on Monday I realize that I missed a window of opportunity.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 10 tips for surviving a severe allergy season

    My colleague Brady Dennis reported recently that the arrival of warmer weather will soon unleash a pollen tsunami in parts of the country where the winter has been especially long and cold. Here are some survival tips from Clifford W. Bassett, an allergy specialist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

    April 11, 2014

  • Is a paleo vegetarian diet possible?

    Research shows most people can follow a regimented eating plan for a short time. That's not the challenge. The challenge is finding a healthful eating plan you can follow day after day and achieve your long-term health goals. At this point, it doesn't appear that the paleo eating plan meets these objectives for most people.

    April 10, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 2.16.35 PM.png Are Americans smart to stop drinking diet sodas?

    Recent data from Beverage Digest suggest many are cutting back on diet sodas. Consumption of diet sodas fell more than that of sugary sodas in 2013. This raises two questions: Why is total consumption declining, and is drinking diet soda harmful to health?

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • To get quality care, it helps to be the right kind of patient

    I am a family physician. Sometimes I must step out of the comfort of my clinical role and into that of patient or family caregiver. Generally, these trips to the other side of the exam table inspire a fair amount of anxiety.

    April 10, 2014

  • Hospice of Stanly County should be the one we support

    Regarding your recent article about Community Hospice relocating its offices from one location in Troy to another, let me point out a few things.

    April 10, 2014

House Ads
Seasonal Content