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.

 

1
Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • 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

  • Patrick Gannon Fake news or sign of some more trouble?

    RALEIGH – Of the three situations I can recall where agencies receiving large sums of taxpayer dollars wouldn’t divulge employees’ salaries, two of them ended badly. The third – involving a group of charter schools in Southeastern North Carolina – is playing out right now.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Almost half of America's obese youth don't know they're obese

    WASHINGTON - The good news is that after decades of furious growth, obesity rates finally seem to be leveling off in the U.S.. The bad news is that America's youth still appear to be dangerously unaware of the problem.

    July 23, 2014

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 23, 2014

  • D.G. Martin Where did all these new voters in North Carolina come from?

    “Voters born elsewhere make up nearly half of N.C. electorate.”
    So begins the latest DataNet report from the UNC Program on Public Life, directed by former journalist Ferrel Guillory.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patrick Gannon Some light for Dems in their time of darkness

    RALEIGH – Earlier this year, state Sen. Ben Clark, a Hoke County Democrat, became a hero for a day among his party and environmentalists when his amendment to require more well water testing near future fracking sites passed the Senate. It even gained the support of a number of GOP senators, against the wishes of the Republican bill sponsor.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Maintaining hope

    Gardeners are facing challenges with the weather this year. It seemed like we were getting great conditions in April and May. The weather was warm and we were getting some good rains. Then sometime in June the rain stopped. It got so dry that I didn’t have to cut the grass. While I enjoyed the break, the garden was not happy at all. I was having to water quite a bit to keep the vegetable garden alive and growing.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jason O. Boyd I may be a bit behind the times, but at least I can find ‘America’

    I seem to be reading about and dealing with technology a lot lately.
    I  love technology and have always been fascinated by gadgets of all kinds and the wonderful things they can do. You never seem to go through an entire day without some form of invention enhancing your life.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brent Laurenz Meeting out in open helps negotiations move ahead

    RALEIGH – State lawmakers reconvened in Raleigh on May 14 promising a brief legislative session this summer, but as July moves along they are still in town and tackling big issues.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content