Thursday, August 16, 2012

Carnival of Divided Government LV
Quînque et Quînquâgintâ
Special Paul Ryan's Express Edition

 "Romney unites Republicans and Democrats." - Jon Stewart

Welcome to the 55th edition of the Carnival of Divided Government - the Special "Paul Ryan's  Express" Edition. This was intended to be the special "Dog Days of Summer" Edition, but the presumptive Republican nominee for President chose this week to make an early announcement of his selection for Vice President.   Apropos to our dividist theme,  conservatives and liberals embraced the selection of Congressman Paul Ryan for diametrically opposed rationales. Jon Stewart and the Daily Show nail it:

Carnival of Divided Government LV

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 LV (Quînque et Quînquâgintâ), as in all of the CODGOV editions, 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 The Dividist reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions. Among the on-topic posts, essays and articles we choose our favorites for commentary and consideration. The Dividist hopes you enjoy these selections. A reminder - Extremism in defense of Divided Government is no Vice-President:


Michael Moran blogging at Slate takes note of  the Vice Presidential hopeful wrapping himself in the Reagan legacy and shares his thoughts in "Reagan's Mantle, Ryan's Hope":
"Set aside the question of whether the 1981/2013 comparison is valid or not (the case is dubious at best) and let’s look at what Reagan actually did when he took office.... Faced with a difficult economy and divided government, Reagan chose to mix tax cuts with stimulus spending and, yes, tax increases, too. Bruce Bartlett, an economic advisor to Reagan and a Treasury official under George H. W. Bush, professes amazement at the twisting of the historical record by those too young to remember the factual Reagan...
Bartlett reminds us, “The cumulative legislated tax increase during his administration came to $132.7 billion as of 1988 [$367 billion today]. This compared to a gross tax cut of $275.1 billion. Thus Reagan took back about half the 1981 tax cut with subsequent tax increases... Imagine that! The alleged God of Tax Cuts actually raised taxes when he thought progress, political, economic or otherwise, required him to do so.”
 Moran despairs of either party adopting the practical pragmatic governing style that was the hallmark of the Reagan presidency. But he glosses over the very reason why pragmatism was a characteristic of that administration - to whit:  "Faced with a difficult economy and divided government...  Reagan actually worked quite deftly with a Congress in which Democrats held power in both chambers."

The appetite for practical, pragmatic, compromise will be directly proportional to the degree the government remains divided in 2013. There is no chance that the GOP will lose control of the House this cycle, so there is no possibility of the Democrats restoring One Party Democratic Rule. However, the GOP will certainly close the gap in the Senate and have a real possibility of taking control of that chamber. This raises the specter of One Party Republican Rule restored with a Romney / Ryan victory.  In that eventuality Moran's fears of an uncompromising intransigent GOP administration will be realized.

However, if any of the three other possible variations of divided government that will likely result from this election prevail, a pragmatic solutions along the lines of  the "Grand Bargain" is a virtual certainly. This is where the comparison to the Reagan administration is apt. One difference -  This time it is likely to be the Democrat Obama who will need to learn to work deftly with a Congress in which Republicans hold power.


Thomas Schaller, writing in Salon and flogging his forthcoming book, explains the the "Ryan Pick in 5 easy steps":
"2. Romney is counting on winning with a 2010-style turnout, not a 2008-style turnout.
The differences between the so-called Obama surge electorate of 2008 (younger, less white, less affluent, and more first-time voters) and the 2010 “Obama backlash” electorate of 2010 (older, more white, more affluent, fewer first-timers) are dramatic and have yielded Washington’s divided government... the Romney camp clearly believes that a base-mobilizing strategy, rather than a swing voter-conversion strategy, is its best chance to win the White House."
That is certainly true of the Republican camp. As it is equally true of the Democratic camp embracing the base-pleasing anti-business, eat-the-rich, occupyish rhetoric.  And both camps are correct. With our highly polarized evenly divided electorate, the vanishingly small  moderate/centrist/libertarianish independents are likely to cancel themselves out or  waste votes on irrelevant 3rd party candidates.  Unless a preponderance of the 5-10% of true independents align around an organizing principle (say - Divided Government), this election will be a victory for the Rove/Axelrod  slash-and-burn strategies aimed at motivating the base by any means necessary and at any cost in civility or propriety. Spare me the "false equivalence" canard. Trust me. The Axelrod/Rove Democrat/Republican electoral tactics are identical in this regard.


Joe Weisenthal at The Business Insider thinks divided government is a bad idea, and makes the case with convoluted impenetrable logic in  "It's More Obvious Than Ever That Only Mitt Romney Can Save The US Economy":
"The best scenario for avoiding a fiscal cliff mess is to see Mitt Romney elected. As we argued back in early April, the surest way to get Republicans on board with ongoing deficits is for them to be the party in power again.  History seems to be pretty clear on one issue: Parties out of power favor austerity. Parties in power favor stimulus.A newly elected Mitt Romney and a Republican Congress would sail past the fiscal cliff with the fewest disruptions possible, insuring ongoing stimulus and deficits...  If Obama is elected, not only will there be divided government, you'll have Republicans who are more furious than ever that they blew it by nominating a moderate. And you'll have the new leader of the Republican party—Paul Ryan—right there in the House looking to cement his role and launch his own race for 2016."
Got that? Wiesenthal is saying we need to elect Romney and Republicans because that will ensure continued large deficits and fiscal stimulus.We don't want to reelect Obama because that will result in divided government and greater fiscal responsibility.  

The delusion is strong in this one.


Jeffrey Taylor weighs in on a Politico Arena debate, asking and answering the question "Is Paul Ryan harming congressional candidates?":
"This country, under President Obama’s leadership, is now $16 trillion in debt, with an annual $1.6 trillion deficit. The president’s FY’13 budget received no votes in Congress; no Republican votes, but no Democrat votes either. Think about it - you need to be doing something radically wrong when not even Earl Blumenauer, Rosa DeLauro, or Barney Frank, the super-liberal hard-left of the House won’t throw your own liberal firebrand president a bone because your budget is too far out there!
Democrats don’t like the Ryan Plan. Fine. That is the obvious outcome of a divided government. But another obvious outcome is that the opposition must have a plan. President Obama and the Democrats have no plan. America should demand a plan from the Democrats. Put something on paper. Vote on it! But they won’t. Putting their far-left ideas on paper would spell election defeat for the Democratic Party - and they know it," 
Jeff is a lobbyist with a vested interest in supporting the GOP, but he raises a good point.  Romney/Ryan are not part of the incumbent administration in power.  The Ryan budget will never be law.  The Ryan budget is not the problem facing this country. Unsustainable debt and unsustainable spending are the real problems.   Ryan's prescription to fix Medicare is not a problem. Unsustainable Medicare spending is a real  problem.   Will the media and the electorate be satisfied with an incumbent administration attacking Ryan's proposed solutions to the problem and not hold their feet to the fire by insisting they provide a solution of their own? The election may hang on this question. Perhaps this election meme should be:   It's unsustainable, stupid.

Mark Vogl is a Nolan Chart social conservative unhappy with the Ryan selection and suggesting that "Romney's V.P. non starter for social conservatives": 
"Independent, social, and "religious right" Conservatives have to think things through. Is four more years of Obama with Republican Congresses more harmful to America than eight years of Romney? Will Romney, like Bush, trade away Tea Party Republican gains in Congress in order to sustain failed policies in the Middle East, dependence on foreign oil, and an anemic economic future?
If Romney wins, and he has a Republican Congress, Amnesty for illegals, a modified Obama Care, and some kind of tax increase for the middle class are all likely. A budget hasn't been passed in years, and the deficit spending is spiraling. Conservatives have to ask; do we want to elect Romney so that RINO solutions can be implemented?
A little over fifty years ago the presumed conservative, Richard Nixon was elected to the White House, and he took America off the Gold Standard! Many older conservatives learned than that sometimes a divided government could be better because it makes it a lot harder to do anything. Sometimes gridlock is the best there is. A lesson of the last half century for conservatives is a split government paralyzed by partisanship is the best we can hope for most of the time.
 Whoa. This may be the first time in the history of this blog that The Dividist agrees (sort of) with a social conservative.   Still, the Dividist suspects that Mark is atypical.  In general the animus toward President Obama among social conservatives is so great that, unlike with Mark,  it will likely overcome even their animus toward the "Romney RINO".

BTW, In case you are interested, the last time The Dividist took the Nolan Chart test was prior to the 2010 midterms. Results linked here:
The Reason cover has an image of some of our favorite pols on a Nolan Chart. This quick quiz plots your political proclivity on such a two dimensional political chart, with the four corners defined as liberal (L), conservative (R), libertarian (U), statist (D). I hadn't taken the test in a while, and the result is unsurprising - this is where The Dividist belongs...

As a libertarian dividist, I'll be voting straight Republican for federal office this year. Should the GOP take the majority in either house of Congress, I'll be voting for the re-election of Barack Obama in 2012.

Dale Marshall posted an even-handed article on WiseGeek answering the question  "What is Divided Government?":  
Some people draw the conclusion that the framers of the American Constitution unwittingly established a governmental structure that would become mired in gridlock and stagnation as the composition of the House and Senate shifted every two years. Others cite the antipathy of the framers toward a strong central government, which helps explain why they would construct a government that requires compromise between parties in order to accomplish anything. In order to gain the opposition's support for any legislation, the president's party must negotiate with the opposition, and the opposition will never agree to any measure that's too egregious.
It's been suggested that divided government is undesirable, and that a unified government is preferable. An analysis of American government in the 20th century shows that for the first 55 years of the century, the government was divided for only eight of those years. Additional analysis shows that some of the most successful administrations in the 20th century, such as those of presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, were part of divided governments, and some unified governments, such as the Democratic dominance in the second half of the 1930s and the administration of President Lyndon Johnson, led to what many consider to have been extreme governmental excess. "
The Dividist has a few quibbles about some of the assertions in the article.  He thinks they should reference and cite some of the foundational scholarship on the subject - specifically Fiorona's  "Divided Government" and Mayhew's "Divided We Govern".   Nevertheless, it is a good primer and an easy introduction that touches all the bases.  Kudos.  Still - The Dividist may feel compelled to become a WiseGeek and make a few corrections. 

Ross Koesterich is busting myths at Seeking Alpha by explaining something the Dividist has been saying for years in "How Presidential Elections Affect Markets":
"Myth #2: Divided government is good for the financial markets.
Following the halcyon days of the 1990s, many investors have come to believe this myth. While divided government was certainly good for markets in the 1990s, that seems to have been an anomaly. The 1990s were unusual and were a function of many factors, including a secular drop in interest rates, a productivity surge, and the taming of inflation. Unfortunately, conditions are very different today.
Looking at the last century of data, there is no evidence that divided government produces better returns. In fact, in the past equities appear to have actually done better when one party has controlled both Congress and the White House, though the numbers backing this better performance aren’t statistically significant and should be taken with more than a grain of salt."
The Dividist has been posting about investor perceptions of divided government since the inception of this blog. "Perception" being the operative word. While reality is as Koesterich describes, investor perceptions can vary from reality and  become self-fulfilling prophecies over the short term. Our consistent perspective on this phenomena was outlined in this post:
"Over the long or medium term,we do not think any attempt to correlate political parties in power and stock market performance should be taken more seriously than the Hemline Index or the Super Bowl Indicator. The reason is simple. The federal government does not and can not control GDP, private employment, corporate profits, and/or the stock market as much presidents or presidential wannabes would like us to believe.
OTOH - Studies that look for correlation between parties in power and those things that the federal government does directly control (spending, deficits, legislation, armed conflict, and currency) are interesting and informative. For that we can look to political scientists and economists like Niskanen, Van Doren, Mayhew, and Slivinski for answers. But lasting effects on the stock market based on party in power? No.
That said- Relatively short term market effects around the catalyst of a national election are a different story. Investor psychology and emotion (whether driven by fear or greed or both) can and does drive market movement in the short term. As noted before, if a preponderance of investors believe that divided government is good for the market, it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy."
Speaking of investor perceptions....


Wells Fargo partnered with Gallup on a poll showing that investors are concerned about the partisan makeup of our next federal government and released the results under the descriptive title: "U.S. Investor Optimism Declines as a Majority of U.S. Investors Fear Spending Slowdown Now, and Recession in 2013, If “Fiscal Cliff” Issues Aren’t Resolved" :   
"When asked to rate the factors affecting the investing climate, investors also rate a “politically divided federal government” as a top factor affecting the investing climate; 69% share this view, up from 64% in May. Investors cited divided government as a greater factor affecting the investment climate than the unemployment rate (67%) and the federal budget deficit (67%).."
See previous response regarding self-fulfilling prophecies.


Donna Cassata And Andrew Taylor of AP reported at Real Clear Politics and elsewhere the startling news that  "Congress breaks for 5 weeks, but much work undone": 
"The standoff is what happens when a bitterly divided government mixes with election-year politics to throw sand in the gears of official Washington. The tea party-dominated House and a Senate controlled by Democrats struggling to keep their narrow majority in November view each other with a palpable disdain.
House Speaker John Boehner, who came to Washington in 1991, bluntly described the divide that has made consensus a rare commodity. "The American people are probably more polarized now than any time since I've been here," the Ohio Republican told reporters. "And as a result we see that polarization reflected here in the halls of Congress. And even though both sides have some sharply different views and ideologies, our job is still to find the common ground."
Compromise occurs when it has to occur and not one minute before. Last year the Dividist believed the Debt Ceiling manufactured crisis and the Super Committee it spawned would precipitate a real compromise solution. The Dividist was wrong.  The Debt Ceiling compromise kicked the can down the road to create the fiscal cliff and an honest-to-god  real crisis at end of this year. Compromise must now occur, so it will. 

The gap is not as great as commonly perceived. The failed Obama and Boehner "Grand Bargain" negotiation got within a few hundred billion of a multi-trillion debt reduction solution.  TIn the greater scheme of things, the delta was mouse nuts.  This election may skew the final compromise $100B to one side or the other of the Obama/Boehner revenue increase/spending cut mix. But the final legislation  will fall colse to that tree.  How close will be settled by this election.

Whew.  This is the first time since the Dividist started compiling the Carnival of Divided Government that he could not find any recent posts or columns favorably disposed to Divided Government. He attributes this to two facts. First, Republicans who argued for divided government in '08 and '10 now recognize they have a real shot at One Party Republican Rule, and they want it. Democrats, OTOH,  have yet to figure out that Divided Government is the best result they can hope for in 2012 and have not yet begun to argue for that outcome.  Independent Centrist are, as always, impotent and frustrated.


Even Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy who was a dividist before The Dividist created this blog seems to be dithering in "Paul Ryan May be About to be Named the GOP Vice Presidential Nominee"
"Ryan isn’t nearly as libertarian on spending as I am, of course (nor would anyone like that have a chance of getting nominated). And his record during the Bush era was far from perfect. But the “Ryan road map” would be a major improvement over the status quo.   I am still not entirely sure whether a Romney victory accompanied by GOP control of Congress (as it likely would be) would be preferable on libertarian grounds to a continuation of divided government with Obama in the White House. But a Ryan nomination would increase the attractiveness of the former scenario."
Ilya - let me help you work through this conundrum. Recall that there are three legs to the GOP stool. Fiscal conservatives like Ryan are but one leg. The stool is also supported by the anti-libertarian neocon security leg  and equally anti-libertarian social conservative leg.  With One Party Republican rule there are no meaningful checks, balances or oversight on either the Neocons or Socialcons to protect our civil liberties.  Perhaps it would be best to go back and recall the words of Ilya Somin circa 2006/2007 in the wake of the last disastrous episode of One Party Republican Rule:
"In a series of posts last September (see here and here), I predicted that the cause of limited government would be better off if the Democrats took control of at least the House of Representatives. I reasoned that Bush would be more likely to oppose new government programs passed by the Democrats than those advanced by his own Party. The Democrats, for their part, would be unlikely to enact new government-expanding initiatives advocated by Bush, such as the major expansions of federal spending and regulation that he pushed through Congress in his first term.

So far, this prediction has held true. Bush and the congressional Republicans have prevented the Democrats from passing most of their government-expanding agenda. The Democrats, in turn, have taken away from Bush the option of pursuing a big government agenda of his own (as he did in the first term with his prescription drug and education bills). Historically, divided government has been a boon for limited government, and the past year has been no exception."
 Not to mention the two unpaid trillion dollar wars launched during that unfortunate episode. Look -  Obama has been a terrible President. His first two years of One Party Democratic Rule was the worst. But One Party Republican Rule was and will be almost as bad.  Choose wisely.
With that we conclude this edition. Look for the 56th Edition of the Carnival of Divided Government Sêdecim Sextus Quînquâgintâ (LVI) - Special Official Election Season Kickoff Edition - sometime on or about Labor Day September 3. Yes, The Dividist is going to attempt to pick up the pace on these compilations as the election approaches.

Please submit your blog article at the carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form  - or - since the blog carnival website/database seems to be down a lot lately, as an alternative,  feel free to submit prospective on-topic blog posts directly to: mw at dividist dot com.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Carnival of Divided Government

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