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
  • D.G. Martin Read others’ views to be better informed, decide for yourself

    “I don’t read The Washington Post. That is not where I get my ideas.”

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patrick Gannon This isn’t medical marijuana

    As state legislators debated allowing the use of an extract from marijuana plants to treat seizure disorders over the past couple of weeks, it was evident that social conservatives – there are many of them in the General Assembly – felt a tinge of unease about it, even as almost every one of them voted yes.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Friends and contentment

    Last week I made my annual trip up the mountain to Sparta. My friends have a secluded home near a babbling brook. Their home and property are a haven for peace. It’s a two-plus hour ride to their home that doesn’t feel that long because I look so forward to my time with this great couple. When I arrive, the conversation seems to pick up right where we left it the last time we saw each other.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Thanks for the honest deed

    I would like to thank the person that found my wallet in the parking lot of Harris Teeter on July 23 and turned it in to the Albemarle Police.

    July 29, 2014

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • We need your help

    Hurray for the Albemarle City Council. Council plans to battle N.C. Department of Transportation’s ranking of all 13 projects in Stanly County to the bottom of their priority list. Council is setting up petitions in various city buildings for citizens to sign.

    July 28, 2014

  • Council asks veterans to seek office

    The terms of office for the leaders of the Stanly County Veterans Council ended June 30. A call is being sent to veterans council members requesting candidates for the four elective offices of the council. A meeting has been set for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at the DAV building. All council members are urged to attend.

    July 28, 2014

  • Mike Walden The gains and gaps in our economy

    Twice a year, I pull out my cloudy crystal ball and attempt to make some predictions about the direction and pace of the North Carolina economy. I just finished my latest effort and, as usual, the results are a combination of pluses and minuses.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jason O. Boyd Yellow journalism takes on new form, people are dumber for it

    Time to get on the soapbox for a few minutes.
    Let me clear my throat. Eh ... hem!
    People are dumb.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brent Laurenz Special election adds to the mix

    RALEIGH – A busy slate of judicial elections this November got even busier recently when Judge John Martin of the N.C. Court of Appeals announced his retirement.
    A special statewide election to fill Martin’s seat will be added to the general election ballot, joining the four N.C. Supreme Court seats and three N.C. Court of Appeals races already slated for this fall.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content