Financial Fallacy: divided governments

Chris Bowers writes in Open Left:”In the closing days of the 2008 campaign, John McCain repeatedly warned against the supposed dangers of one-party rule. His argument was not particularly convincing at the time, but it did echo a longstanding political LEGEND about the benefits of one-party rule. Supposedly, a DIVIDED government limits government spending and corruption. This argument was popular in the 1990’s, and some conservatives were echoing it back in 2007 even before the presidential election seemed a foregone conclusion. In 2009, it has become a common mantra for Republican elected officials and operatives.

The main problem with this argument is that recent events have proven it false. Government spending does not increase at a slower rate when one party controls the White House and another party controls Congress. This argument was turned into a LAUGHINGSTOCK only five weeks before the presidential election, when both McCain and Obama supported the Wall Street bailout, a majority of Senators of both partiessupported the bailout, and when 73% of House Democrats and 46% of House Republicans supported the bailout. No matter which party controlled the House, the Senate, or the White House, with numbers like that the bailout would have passed anyway.

During the final year of divided government–FY 2008 to FY 2009–federal spending increased by 6.67% of GDP, mainly because of the bailout. Outside of the two world wars, that was more than double the spending increase of any other year in the history of the country. It was larger than the increase in federal spending during the previous fifty years (1949 to 2008) combined, during which time federal spending grew by 5.87% of GDP. By virtue of the bi-partisan Wall Street bailout, that one year of divided government INCREASED government spending–and facilitated the corruption behind the financial meltdown–more than the twenty years of one-party government had done combined.

Republicans may DECRY one-party rule, but the argument simply won’t work after the bi-partisan Wall Street bailout increased government spending and complicity in corruption at an all-time record level. In 2012, rather than decrying one-party rule, they will probably need toFIND a nominee who opposed the bailout all along in order to have a shot at ending one-party rule (continuing economic difficulty for the country will also be required, of course).  That could be the real Howard Dean moment for the right-wing grassroots to throw off the shackles of their party leadership. Unfortunately for Republicans, the list of their Senators who opposed the bailout is not exactly loaded with presidential material:


Allard (R-CO), Barrasso (R-WY), Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Cochran (R-MS), Crapo (R-ID), DeMint (R-SC), Dole (R-NC), Enzi (R-WY), Inhofe (R-OK), Roberts (R-KS), Sessions (R-AL), Shelby (R-AL), Vitter (R-LA), Wicker (R-MS)

GOOD luck digging a President out of that pile.



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