Thursday, December 04, 2008

Carnival of Divided Government Undêtrîgintâ (XXIX)
Special Bad Attitude Edition

Welcome to the 29th edition of the Carnival of Divided Government. This, the first since we elected a new president, was to be the "Special Thanksgiving Edition" but alas, I am a bit too late for that. Even the leftovers are gone. Frankly, my heart has not been in it. Since the election I have been feeling a bit unmotivated. I think I have a touch of that old Jimmy Carter malaise. It is kind of a nostalgic feeling, but surprisingly relevant. He was, after all, the last Democratic President to preside over four years of single party Democratic rule, as we will now have with Barack Obama. Perhaps a bit of the hair of the dog will help. Perhaps Jimmy can help rouse me from my melancholy - This from his stirring July 15, 1979 speech to the nation:
"I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy. I do not mean our political and civil liberties... the threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation. The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America."
America agreed and elected Ronald Reagan president a year later. Today I am again feeling that old doubt about the meaning of my life and blog, accompanied by a social fabric destroying erosion of confidence in the future. But there was more to Jimmy's speech than addressing our national malaise. Once Jimmy finished explaining to America that our bad attitude was threatening to rend the national fabric, he went on to talk about the real subject of the speech, solving the energy crisis.
"What I have to say to you now about energy is simple and vitally important. I am tonight setting a clear goal for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 -- never... I will forbid the entry into this country of one drop of foreign oil more than these goals allow...I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation's history to develop America's own alternative sources of fuel -- from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the sun...I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this nation's first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000. These efforts will cost money, a lot of money, and that is why Congress must enact the windfall profits tax without delay... To make absolutely certain that nothing stands in the way of achieving these goals, I will urge Congress to create an energy mobilization board which, like the War Production Board in World War II, will have the responsibility and authority to cut through the red tape, the delays, and the endless roadblocks to completing key energy projects... I ask Congress to give me authority for mandatory conservation and for standby gasoline rationing. To further conserve energy, I'm proposing tonight an extra $10 billion over the next decade to strengthen our public transportation systems. And I'm asking you for your good and for your nation's security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel. Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense -- I tell you it is an act of patriotism."
At least we can all be thankful that Jimmy Carter's vision...
  • Centralized government command and control of energy use and production.
  • Government mandated and enforced conservation and rationing.
  • Government dictating and funding the politically correct energy of the future.
  • Energy and industry "czars" and "boards" whose enlightened benevolent dictates could substitute for letting Americans make energy choices for themselves.
  • Expanded executive power to force patriotic sacrifice by all Americans.
...solved the last energy and financial crisis. Anyone remember how that synfuels and oil shale project in which we invested 20 billion or so worked out? Oh well. I'm sure Barack and Harry and Nancy will get it right this time.

Lets face it. I am quite bitter and pessimistic about the current economic situation. Not the least of it is because both our president, president-elect and congress critters from both parties agree that the solution to an economic crisis caused by massive government spending, massive debt, easy monetary policy and intervention in the market to promote social goals can be solved by massive government spending, massive debt, easy monetary policy and intervention in the market to promote social goals.

So lets just call this carnival what it is and move on - The Special Bad Attitude Edition.

As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series. In this, the Carnival of Divided Government Undêtrîgintâ (XXIX), as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and main stream media writing on the single topic of government divided between the major parties (leaving it to the reader to sort out volunteers from draftees). Consistent with this topic, the primary criteria for acceptance in the carnival is to explicitly use the words and/or concept of "divided government" in submitted posts. A criteria that, to our endless befuddlement, is ignored by many of the bloggers submitting posts, which sadly results in DWSUWF reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions.

30 days in the hole.

It is has been 30 days since the election, and the final configuration of our Congress is still taking shape. Republican Saxby Chambliss won the runoff election in Georgia and in the Minnesota recount, it is beginning to look like Republican Norm Coleman may yet win a landslide double digit victory. I don't mean double digit percentage. I mean somewhere between 10 and 99 votes. Assuming Joe Lieberman has now been cowed into toeing the Democratic Party Line, the Democrats have a 58-42 majority, two short the filibuster-proof majority they coveted.

This should provide some small comfort for those, like myself, who prefer their federal government divided. However, as the Republicans in this Congress have already shown a willingness, nay eagerness, to sell their soul, their vote, their dogs and their children's future for a few earmarks and pork, I don't think the Dems will have much of a problem finding those two votes whenever they need them. As the punch line goes "We've already established what you are, now we are just negotiating the price."

Yeah, I need a little cheering up. Or maybe a drink. Or maybe Prozac. Or maybe a three day bender in Tijuana. They say that misery loves company. For this Carnival, we will seek out that company, and sample the attitudes of some others on our sparkling new undivided government. Who knows? Maybe they can cheer me up.


On the day after the election, Will Wilkinson quoted some Michael Kinsley nonsense and responded with pithy brilliance in "Divided Government" - complete post copied in full here:
"Michael Kinsley says, “People who want divided government are afraid of politics.” Indeed. For fear is the most reasonable response to the recognition of what politics is. GOP 2010!"
Perfect. But I am afraid that a majority change in 2010 is very unlikely. We will be "enjoying" single party rule for at least four years.

New favorite Kevin Bliss blogging at What Should Be quotes from my 2010/2012 election analysis and articulates the conventional wisdom of Centrists and Moderates who voted for Obama and against "Divided Government" :
"So in a sense what I’m arguing is that Barack Obama will be wise to govern as though he has a more divided government that he actually has. Although not yet settled, it is looking like Obama will not have a filibuster-proof Senate (60 votes). Let that be viewed as a blessing in disguise, a manifestation of divided government that will in the long run do Obama (and the country) more good than harm. This is because the one thing Obama has to fear is a voter backlash in 2010 and 2012 that puts Republicans back in control of the House and/or Senate."
It's a nice thought. But I don't see the 42 Republicans being much of a speed bump to this administration's agenda. The Republicans will pick their shots on a few initiatives, but if recent history is a guide, even then they'll just pick the wrong battles to fight. For the most part I expect the Democratic leadership to play a little "Game Theory" and an expanded version of the Prisoner's Dilemma: Only the first two Republicans to play ball get the earmarks and pork. There is no reason to expect Republicans to show any more restraint or scruples under Democratic leadership than they did under the Republicans.

Todd Beeton blogging at MyDD offers the conventional wisdom of the Left in "Talking Politics":
"...certainly bi-partisanship would be great but not for its own sake. I asked him to think about what's gotten done during two years of divided government versus 6 years of single party government -- far more got done in those first six years; the fact that it was mostly bad is beside the point. Single party Democratic rule is the only way we're going to actually advance a mainstream agenda, which the American people have voted for 2 cycles in a row: ending the war in Iraq, funding stem cell research, increasing access and affordability to health care, curbing carbon emissions to rollback the effects of global warming, closing Guantanamo Bay and restoring our reputation abroad (and certainly the list goes on...)"
Yes, the list goes on and on and on. Pretty much like the list of organizations lining up at the federal bailout window to partake in taxpayer largess. The left, who like DWSUWF, supported the idea of divided government in 2006, now think it a good thing that divided government be sacrificed on the altar of "getting things done". Problem being "getting things done" can and usually does mean getting a lot of things done that would be better left undone. Just like his example of six years of single party rule under Republicans. Few would argue that all that was done during those years was good. His post uses a technique I have seen frequently among the left of center blogs - list a couple of hot button issues where there is broad consensus (like the war in Iraq), then conflate those issues with the entire of litany of tired old liberal Democratic bromides, to come to the conclusion that the entire progressive agenda is now mainstream.

Which is simply false. One last point for Todd - as DWSUWF stated in 2006 - "Divided government ≠ Bipartisanship". Obstruction, blocking bad bills, and stopping bad ideas from "getting done" is a benefit, not a problem of divided government. It was true in 2000-2006, and it is true now. The only difference is that the bad ideas will be coming from the left this time.

Steve Chapman, blogging as A Minority of One at the Chicago Tribune supported Obama but was cheering on Saxby Chambliss in "Sarah Palin campaigns for checks and balances":
"In 2006, I was happy to see Democrats gain control of Congress. And for the same reasons I offered then, I hope they lose this election. The reason: In this country, the best government is divided government. President Bush needed a Democratic Congress to counter his worst instincts, as did Bill Clinton before him. Obama has nothing to check him but himself, which is rarely a sufficient protection from partisan overreaching. For the next two years, of course, unchallenged Democratic ascendancy is a fact of life. But in the Senate, it takes 60 votes to do anything. Right now, the Democrats have 58 seats. If Democrat Al Franken were somehow to win on a recount in Minnesota, they'd be one shy. But a victory for incumbent Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss today would prevent them from attaining a filibuster-proof majority."
Well, it is good to see that Steve also has high hopes. See previous comment. Others who confuse maintaining a filibuster in the Senate with true divided government include Western Standard, D-Day, Cogitamus, and Mark Hutcherson.

Trevor Bothwell at the Libertarian Examiner has "Two Cheers for Divided Government", wherein he quotes Lew Rockwell finding a divided government silver lining in the first round rejection of the Big 3 bailout in "Not All News is Bad":
"Already the Republicans are toughening up, seeing the light of day. After nearly a decade of signing off on horrible legislation and looking the other way as a Republican president chewed through our liberties, they are new converts to the cause of limiting the government because a Democrat will be president. At the same time, we are witnessing the disgusting spectacle of Bush lecturing us on the merits of the free market. After eight years of wars, the police state, bailouts, and regulations, he is newly concerned about his legacy, and so he is following the path of Hoover, who was horrible in office and better out of office. Thus is Bush, of all people, sounding like a champion of the free society. Already, you can see that the political constellation is lining up in a way that is more friendly to the cause of liberty. The Democrats are up to their old tricks, which are transparently dumb and dated. The Republicans are responding with smart and sound criticisms. The government looks poised for a fantastic gridlock that will let the liquidation take place so that we can move toward a good recovery."
Two problems with Pollyanna's Lew's perspective. It is easy to forget, but the lame duck government in office right now actually is a divided government, with a Republican President and a Democratic Congress. What this government does or does not do tells us nothing about how the government will behave under Single Party Democratic Rule come January. Second, the Big 3 are back before Congress again today, and this time it looks like they will get everything they asked for. Actually, even more than they asked for last time. Even with this divided government and a Republican President. Pathetic.

Malsnay at Malnurtured Snay thinks that some on the left (like Gail Collins) have already lost the plot (ya think?) in "Nancy Pelosi scares the poo out of me...":
"Nancy Pelosi scares the shit out of me. One of the reasons I voted for Obama was because I didn’t believe the “uber liberal” hype and believe that he’d change the political tone in Washington by building consensus with Republicans, an approach necessitating a govern-from-the-middle administration. While I believe divided government is the best government, I also felt that Obama won’t force a Democratic-majority Congress to bend to his will blindly (and that even if he wanted to, Blue Dog Democrats would block him from doing so) …"
I'd like to share Massnay's confidence in the moderating influence of the Blue Dogs. Perhaps there is some sliver of hope there, particularly if the attitude and efforts like those promoted by Glen Greenwald, Jane Hamsher, Daily Kos, and others actually backfires and puts some blue dog spine in the Republican opposition. I'd like to believe it, but I don't. I think they are going to fall into Democratic line. In any case, it'll be interesting to watch the liberal/blue dog tension play out in the 2010 primary season.

If that last post was a bit too optimistic, Jonathon Bean of "The Beacon Blog" throws some cold water on those betting on the filibuster to provide some moderation in the Obama administration. He spins a frightening but plausible scenario in "Cloture Rules - How Obama my bring one party rule to America":
"In 1974, it took two-thirds of the U.S. Senate to approve cloture and force a vote on a bill. After the 1975 reform, it took only 60% of the Senators to shut down debate. This naturally leads to the question: What will prevent the Democrats from rewriting the rules to lower the cloture bar to 51 Senators? In practical terms, that means the gagging of the Republican minority. We will have one-party rule, utterly. The only downside is that voters might see it as a power grab (which it is) but with a smooth-talking president of the same party, who will raise the issue? Surely the Democrats will spin it as as democracy in action; after all, it still takes a majority to shut down debate, correct? But this would be a sea change in the way Congress does business and it may leave the GOP gasping for air... At the same time, many libertarians recognize that divided government is the best real-world check on the short-term growth of government (in a later blog, I will address the long term). By any measure, one-party rule by a left-wing party is not good for the values libertarians hold dear. If cloture reform does not worry you, I will not mention the frequent talk in the 1970s about statehood for the District of Columbia — guaranteed Democratic seats in the U.S. Congress. In a word, gird your loins and get ready for unchecked Democratic rule. If you thought it could not get worse than unified GOP rule, then history may prove you wrong."
Where did I put that Prozac?

Perhaps it is better if I read posts where I just don't understand what is being said about divided government. Offinger Frieidenker explains it all in his post "Das politische System der USA III: Präsidentschaftswahlen, Kongress und Senat":
"Was bei uns Regierung heißt – und dem die Häuser gegenübergestellt sind – nennt sich in den USA administration; der gesammelte Politikbetrieb heißt government. Exekutive und Legislative werden zwar am gleichen Tag gewählt, aber in unterschiedlichen Systemen, so dass split-votes möglich sind (Wahl für Demokraten-Präsident und Republikaner-Kongress). Das Ergebnis kann ein divided government (Präsident und Kongress-/Senatsmehrheit unterschiedlicher Partei) oder ein united government (Präsident und Kongres-/Senatsmehrheit gleiche Partei) sein; die Regel seit 1968 ist das divided government. Gerade in den seltenen Phasen des united government war es allerdings interessanterweise schwieriger für den Präsidenten zu regieren. Die Regeln des Kongresses arbeiten gezielt darauf hin, ein divided government zu ermöglichen, setzen dies allerdings nicht voraus. Seit der starken Polarisierung durch neue soziale Bewegungen und christliche Konservative ab etwa 1968 ist ein divided government noch wahrscheinlicher als ohnehin."
Obviously. Babelfish is here. You figure it out.

The Taoist at Tai-Chi Policy weighs in with some "Good Advice for the Republicans":
"I would point out that these sorts of anti-corruption measures are things that the Republicans should be doing anyways. Divided government is supposed to help fight corruption. So why aren’t they?"
Oh I dunno. Maybe incompetence has something to do with it. Maybe it is because the divided government of the last two years had too much low hanging fruit to choose from cleaning up the corruption of the previous six years of single pary Republican rule. Maybe the GOP is still wrestling with that whole "pot, kettle, black" thing. In any case, I had to include tao's blog just for the logo.

A good show might improve my attitude. I'll just grab some popcorn and sit down to enjoy the Kabuki theater of the Big 3 CEO's appearing before Congress. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will use the automaker's bullshit reports showing how another $59 billion or so will make them competitive, to cover their collective ass as they shepherd billions more down the rathole of these failed companies to support their UAW constituency. Very entertaining.

Dan Kennedy of the Business and Media Institute offers a preview of coming attractions in "Journalists are MIA in Bailouts":
"Investment analyst John Rutledge on Nov. 22 offered “Forbes on Fox” the most succinct argument in favor of divided government I’ve heard: if a mugger is chasing you, you hope he’s slow. President Obama, the Pelosians and other Dems in full, unchecked control of the White House and both houses of Congress is the equivalent of a very, very speedy mugger closing in on you in a long, narrow alley with no escape in sight. We are about to experience purportedly benevolent dictatorship, and it’s hard to like our chances. The problem with benevolent dictatorship is there seem to be very few benevolent dictators... Why can’t we get some real journalism about such financial matters? Dave Ramsey commenting about cutting up credit cards and paying your house off is well and good, but taxpayers deserve a lot more information about the billion-dollar limit credit cards being handed out by Paulson and promised by Obama. We could all stand to learn how they’re creating and assuming debt so enormous our great-grandchildren won’t see it paid off."
This may be the most extraordinary mass delusion I have ever seen. The pervasive notion, the "magical thinking", that this extraordinary spending and debt can be piled up with no consequences to our currency or our financial future. Forget the Prozac. I need a gun, or bottle of pills. Best if we end this Carnival now. I don't think I can deal with any more company.


Traditionally, we conclude this Carnival by including one "off-topic" submission, as a grudging acknowledgment and proxy for the many off-topic submissions received. Off-topic in this context meaning - no mentions of "divided government" or gridlock. For this edition we selected Alli presenting something else for us to worry about in "Rahm Emanuel Advocates Compulsory Civil Service" posted at The Smoking Argus, saying,
"In “The Plan: Big Ideas for America“, co-authored by Representative Emanuel and Bruce Reed, the two lay out their vision of the “Homeland’s” new compulsory civilian service, writing:
“It’s time for a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us. We propose universal [mandatory] civilian service for every young American. Under this plan, All Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five will be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic training, civil defense preparation and community service.”
If the arrogance alone in such sentiments bothers you not, the two “centralized planners” go on to say:
“Republicans will squeal about individual freedom...”
Such blatant disdain for individual liberty is a sentiment only of tyrants. We have seen this ruse perpetrated on us for the last eight years as it relates to the false justification for preemptive war. Let us not now be chastised away from our liberty based upon a centralized planner’s definition of patriotism."
And on that happy note we conclude this edition, and not a moment too soon [Just got to keep that Prozac in reach].

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not). Look for the next edition of The Carnival of Divided Government XXX - Special New Year Resolution Edition sometime around - oh.. lets say January 1. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form.


Some recent posts and commentary of interest:

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.


Anonymous said...

Heh. Your logo's pretty decent too.

Yeah, the Republican party has been pretty incompetent at cleaning corruption for the past several years. There was a period there when the corrupt vs. clean elements were infighting, and unfortunately did not succeed, letting Pelosi and the Dems run on a "Culture of Corruption" platform. That the Democrats, more corrupt by every quantifiable measure you could apply, could actually get away with employing such a charge says many things in and of itself, regarding both the heights of corruption the Republicans reached, and our media.

Connecticut Man1 said...

On the one hand, if we had compulsory time in the military I can guarantee that we would never, ever, see illegal invasions and occupations like Iraq and Afghanistan would have been over in a year or two (if we had ever bothered to go in - more likely they would have used selective strikes by air).

On the other hand, having served I can tell you straight up that nobody wants a battle buddy that does not want to be there because they do bring down the moral of the unit, and too many are unfit to serve. And I don't mean out of shape.

Just my two cents on that last diary.

mw said...

Conn Man,
Can I call you that?

I mostly agree, with a little modification. Most Americans are going to give the President the benefit of the doubt and support a military action if he says there is a threat - regardless of whether we have a volunteer or conscription military. After all, that is the primary responsibility of the Commander in Chief, and exactly what we expect from the man or woman we vote into that office. Tht is why Bush had 70% support at the time we went in to Iraq.

I think the difference between a conscription or all volunteer force is in how long Americans are willing to tolerate an occupation and participation in a quagmire like Iraq, Afghanistan or Vietnam. If we had a draft like Vietnam we would have massive protests in the street as we had in that era. It is only because the burden falls so heavily on just the relatively small minority of volunteer servicemen/women and their families, that our participation in these conflicts have been able to continue for this long.

That said, I could never support universal mandatory service, even if (especially if) it includes a civilian service option. I simply consider mandatory government service anathema to the principles our country was founded on, our way of life, and the ideal of freedom that your service helped make possible. Thanks for that service, thanks for stopping by and thanks for the comment.

BTW - I also enjoy your blog - well - at least the drinking part.