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Whenever the party that controls the White House does not also control Capitol Hill, political pundits worry that there will be “gridlock” in Washington, so that the government cannot solve the nation’s problems.
Almost never is that fear based on what actually happens when there is divided government, compared to what happens when one party has a monopoly of both legislative and executive branches.
The last time the federal government had a budget surplus, instead of its usual deficits, there was divided government. That was when the Republicans controlled the House of Representatives, where all spending bills originate, and Bill Clinton was in the White House. The media called it “the Clinton surplus.”
By the same token, some of the worst laws ever passed were passed when one party had overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress, as well as being led by their own president of the United States. Obamacare is a product of the kind of arrogance that so much power breeds.
It was the same story back in the famous “first hundred days” of the New Deal in 1933. The National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 clamped down on the American economy the kind of pervasive government control seldom seen outside totalitarian countries.
It was the Obamacare of its time, but covering industries right down to local dry cleaners. One man was sent to jail for charging less than the government-specified price for pressing a suit of clothes. This typified the mindset of the New Deal.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court eventually declared the National Industrial Recovery Act unconstitutional. But, before that happened, the N.I.R.A. probably did more to prevent the economy from recovering from the Great Depression than any other law or policy. Even liberal icon John Maynard Keynes said at the time that the N.I.R.A. “probably impedes recovery.”
You cannot tell what effect a law or policy will have by what politicians call it, whether they label it a “recovery” program or a “stimulus” program.
Those who fear gridlock in Washington today implicitly assume that government actions are needed to “solve” the economy’s “problems.” That assumption has been so pervasive over the past 80 years that many people fail to realize that the republic existed for nearly twice that long before the federal government intervened to get the economy out of a recession or depression.
During all that time, no depression ever lasted even half as long as the Great Depression of the 1930s, when first President Herbert Hoover and then President Franklin Roosevelt intervened.
For most of the history of this country, there was no Federal Reserve System, which was established in 1914 to prevent bank failures and the bad effects of large expansions or contractions of the supply of money and credit. But bank failures in the 1930s exceeded anything ever seen before the Fed was established. So did the contraction of money and credit during the Great Depression.
The seductive notion that some Big Daddy in Washington can solve our problems for us – whether healing the sick, preventing poverty, or “growing the economy” – is encouraged by politicians for obvious reasons, and the media echoes the idea.
Both in Washington and in the media, there is virtually zero interest in comparing what actually happens when the federal government intervenes in the economy and when it does not.
More than a century and a half of ignoring downturns in the economy never produced a depression as deep or as long as the 1930s depression, with its many federal interventions, first under Hoover and then under Roosevelt.
The unemployment rate was 6.3 percent when the first big intervention took place, during the Hoover administration. It later peaked at 25 percent, but its fluctuations were always in double digits throughout the 1930s, as FDR tried one thing after another. As late as the spring of 1939, nearly a decade after the stock market crash of 1929, unemployment hit 20 percent again.
It is not a matter of faith that a market economy can recover on its own. It is a matter of faith that politicians speed recovery. But there is no way that Barack Obama is going to stop intervening in the economy unless he gets stopped. Only gridlock can do that.
On CNN the other day, Larry King asked Tony Blair what it was he had in his buttonhole. It was a poppy – not a real poppy, but a stylized, mass-produced thing of red paper and green plastic that, as the Prime Minister explained, is worn in Britain and other Commonwealth countries in the days before November 11th.
They’re sold in the street by aged members of the Royal British Legion to commemorate that moment 83 years ago today, when on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month the guns fell silent on the battlefields of Europe.
Jimmy Carter was such an abominable president we got Ronald Reagan, tax cuts, a booming economy and the destruction of the Soviet Union. Two years of Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress got us the first Republican Congress in half a century, followed by tax cuts, welfare reform and a booming economy – all of which Clinton now claims credit for.
Obama’s disastrous presidency has already produced Republican senators from Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Illinois; New Jersey’s wonder-governor Chris Christie; and the largest House majority for Republicans since 1946. We deserve more.
This week, I held a bake sale – a racist bake sale. I stood in midtown Manhattan shouting, “Cupcakes for sale.” My price list read: Asians – $1.50. Whites – $1.00. Blacks/Latinos – 50 cents. People stared. One yelled, “What is funny to you about people who are less privileged?”
A black woman said, angrily, “It’s very offensive, very demeaning!” One black man accused me of poisoning the cupcakes. I understand why people got angry. What I did was hurtful to some. My bake sale mimicked what some conservative college students did at Bucknell University.
During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama was billed as a cool rationalist – a sober and judicious intellectual so unlike the inattentive and twangy “smoke ’em out” George W. Bush, so rational in contrast to the herky-jerky and frenetic John McCain. Like Senator Kerry, our professor president now laments Americans’ descent into emotion.
“Facts and science and argument does [sic] not,” our president moans, “seem to be winning the day.” The largely academic intellectuals whom Obama brought into his administration promised to bring their erudition and logic both to reading public opinion and to providing commensurate winning solutions.
Energy czar Carol Browner needs to go the way of disgraced green jobs czar Van Jones: under the bus and stripped of her unbridled power to destroy jobs and lives in the name of saving the planet. ASAP.
One of the Beltway’s most influential, entrenched and unaccountable left-wing radicals, Browner has now been called out twice by President Obama’s own federal BP oil spill commission and Interior Department inspector general. How many strikes should a woman who circumvented the Senate confirmation process and boasts a sordid history of abusing public office get?
In offering himself as the next speaker of the House after last Tuesday’s sea-change election, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed of about 800 words. The word “debt” is not one of them, nor does the concept appear. That’s a bit odd, no?
The debt is what the election was about: the growth-killing tab that runs up another $4 billion every day – even days when President Obama is not touring the Far East with 3,000 courtiers in his retinue. The debt, driven by unconstitutional and unsustainable federal intrusions into everything from how much carbon dioxide we emit to which light bulbs we use, is what in turn drives unemployment.