Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Krugman and Klein on how the Scalia Supreme Court vacancy battle will destroy America.
Because "divided government."
Or something.

 Let's start with Paul Krugman and his usual understated dispassionate analysis...
Once upon a time, the death of a Supreme Court justice wouldn’t have brought America to the edge of constitutional crisis. But that was a different country, with a very different Republican Party. In today’s America, with today’s G.O.P., the passing of Antonin Scalia has opened the doors to chaos...
In his opening paragraph, in around 50 words,  Krugman manages to blame the GOP for "chaos", a "constitutional crisis", and losing America. All because the GOP controlled Senate may delay confirming a Supreme Court appointment for 9 or 10 months. Even by the standard of Krugman's usual vitriolic, polarizing, partisan hyperbole, that is an impressive pile of horseshit.

Of course this is nothing new for regular Krugman watchers. Who can forget his 2010 classic meltdown on the eve of the Republican takeover of majority control in the House of Representatives:

"Barring a huge upset, Republicans will take control of at least one house of Congress next week. How worried should we be by that prospect?.. This is going to be terrible. In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness... Right now we very much need active policies on the part of the federal government to get us out of our economic trap... So if the elections go as expected next week, here’s my advice: Be afraid. Be very afraid."
How did that turn out? How does the Obama administration characterize these last 6 years of "terrible" "catastrophic" divided government that "condemned" the nation to "chaos" and "economic weakness" as predicted by Krugman? This is how.  Here, in a slideshare prepared for President Obama's last State of the Union, the White House summarizes the terrible, catastrophic, chaotic, economic weakness that was precipitated under divided government:
Virtually all improvements in this slide occurred after the GOP took
majority control of the House and divided the government in 2010. 
But, we've come to expect this from Paul Krugman. The real surprise is when he gets anything right. There have been no surprises in recent memory.

While we expect this nonsense from Krugman, we expect better from Ezra Klein at Vox. Alas, Klein is apparently endeavoring to become Krugman's "Mini-Me":

Justice Antonin Scalia's death is a test for the American political system — a test it's unlikely to pass... The American people, of course, already did have a voice in the selection of Scalia's replacement. They reelected Barack Obama to office in 2012. But they also made Mitch McConnell majority leader in 2014. These elections, carried out in different years, midst different electorates, and using different electoral systems, are equally valid. Obama and McConnell's claims of democratic legitimacy are simultaneously correct. The American people speak with a divided voice, and our system carries no mechanism for resolving their confusion... 
This is why political systems like ours rarely survive. Indeed, as the late sociologist Juan Linz wrote, "Aside from the United States, only Chile has managed a century and a half of relatively undisturbed constitutional continuity under presidential government...  
The great unanswered question of American politics in this era is whether our divided political system can function in times of stress. Already, there have been worrying signs. Disagreement between a Democratic president and a Republican House nearly forced the United States to default on its debt in 2011, and it shut down the government in 2013.Now we see another form of stress — how does a divided political system, where the disagreements are sharper than ever, fill a Supreme Court nomination? 
Divided government is a common occurrence in American politics. It didn't used to signal disaster for the system's ability to solve problems. If it does so now, then the country will, over time, pay a serious price for a political system that no longer fits its political parties."
 Just to be perfectly clear - Ezra Klein is saying that after 240 years, after two world wars, a great depression, two impeached Presidents, a President resigning in disgrace, our capital burned to the ground by invading Brits, and fighting a civil war where we spent four years killing 600,000 of our fellow citizens... after surviving all that...  This is what is going to bring down our constitutional checks and balances, separation of powers, divided government system - Wait For It - The catastrophe that finally does us in is a potential 9-10 month delay in the Senate confirming a vacant seat on Supreme Court.

Well, it was a good run while it lasted.
[UPDATE: And Scott Lemieux of the New Republic joins the Prog Chicken Little 9 month confirmation delay "constitutional crisis!" brigade in "The End Of The Supreme Court As We Know It". Question - Why is it only Progs that think "The Sky is Falling!" on this question? It's almost like they are hoping for a "constitutional crisis". ]
There is another possible explanation. Our system has been this successful, and lasted as long as it has, not by accident, but because it is unique in the way it was designed. It is not just another "presidential government" as cited by Linz and Klein.

It is a system designed by the Framers to prevent the centralization and consolidation of power at all cost. It is unique with a bicameral legislative body and separation of the executive from the legislative branch with an independent judiciary. It is designed to pit power against power. There is nothing else like it in on the planet. That continuous conflict makes it more resilient because power cannot be centralized and consolidated. And, just perhaps, as the 240 year evidence would indicate, this system of what historian Joseph Ellis calls the "enshrinement of argument" is incredibly resilient. This conflict and concept of  pitting power agaisnt power is the very reason our system has survived for as long as it has and precipitated the exceptional success our country has enjoyed.

But don't listen to me. Listen to a clear, insightful explanation from the late, great Justice Antonin Scolia - on exactly why Americans should learn to love gridlock:
H/T to Karl at HotAir for posting this gem.
"I hear Americans saying this nowadays, and there’s a lot of it going around. They talk about a dysfunctional government because there’s disagreement… and the Framers would have said, “Yes! That’s exactly the way we set it up. We wanted this to be power contradicting power because that's the main ill besetting us — as Hamilton said in The Federalist when he talked about a separate Senate: “Yes, it seems inconvenient, inasmuch as the main ill that besets us is an excess of legislation, it won’t be so bad.” This is 1787; he didn’t know what an excess of legislation was. 
Unless Americans can appreciate that and learn to love the separation of powers, which means learning to love the gridlock which the Framers believed would be the main protector of minorities, [we lose] the main protection. If a bill is about to pass that really comes down hard on some minority [and] they think it’s terribly unfair, it doesn’t take much to throw a monkey wrench into this complex system. Americans should appreciate that; they should learn to love the gridlock. It’s there so the legislation that does get out is good legislation." - Antonin Scalia
I'll add that the gridlock is also there so that the SCOTUS appointments that do get out are good SCOTUS appointments. 

Thank you Justice Antonin Scalia.

Rest In Peace.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nearly all the economic success is due to the fed.
And taking fsr too many soldiers out of Afghanistan is nothing to be proud of. It caused the formation of Isis.