Jan. 11, 2019

TITLE: A nation divided against itself… can do pretty darned well

In this bizarro new political world where it’s not merely that black is white and up is down; it’s that black is up and white is down, a massive segment of the American electorate is signaling that it has had it with a political thermostat that has only two settings: HOTHOTHOT and COLDCOLDCOLD. The Nov. 2018 midterms proved it, and it will likely be underscored in super-fat permanent marker when the senatorial map redounds to the benefit of Dems in less than two years.

Not that the media representing each extreme is giving up on their cash cows any time soon. To my mind, the most egregious example of this is currently taking place on the right, where the Hillary/Nancy/Elizabeth (hmm… there might be a pattern there) vilification machine is being pumped up to full frenzy on newly-elected House Dems. Proof? Following the Nov. midterms, the Fox News website’s first FIVE stories are about… Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), every one of which was designed to get visitors to conclude that Ocasio-Cortez is a) a comely-disguised demoness and b) not remotely like you. Like they did with Hillary. And Nancy. And Liz. You know how that works: “Gee, I really agree with her political positions but, gosh, there’s just something about her I just don’t like… “

Yes, Ocasio-Cortez IS a self-described democratic socialist with some pretty far-left positions (income redistribution, Medicare for All, tuition-free college) but she is by no means the devil incarnate and her views are most certainly not typical of the people who just flipped the House to a 40+ seat Dem advantage.

Voters who moved to the right in 2016 after feeling that the social pendulum had swung too far away from them are rapidly tuning back in to a center-left message. Sadly, it’s a lesson Americans seem to need to learn over and over: that the government which suits them best is a divided government (where the presidency and/or at least one of two houses are of opposing parties).

In the article, “Government Works Better When Divided,” Forbes contributor Steve Hanke notes, “The likelihood of entering a major war is much lower with a divided than a unified government. In the 20th century, all major wars have been entered into during periods when the president and congress were of the same party.”

The article further observes that substantive government reforms are more likely during periods of divided government. “[Reforms] have a better chance of being sustained when enacted with bipartisan support… Remember Reagan’s revolutionary tax reforms of 1981 and 1986. They came to life during divided governments. Both of those tax reforms have largely survived, as have many other major reforms that were the products of divided governments.”

The key word there is “survive.” Will the 2017 GOP tax cuts survive? Many, myself included, would argue that they should be severely amended to benefit regular people and strengthen essential government services and policies. And we have all seen Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act backfire epically.

The Forbes article concludes, “The real rate of growth in (inflation-adjusted) federal spending tends to be lower with divided governments. Consequently, the size of government, measured by the ratio of government outlays to GDP, shrinks — the ratio becomes smaller.”

Turns out that every instance of the government’s percentage of GDP shrinks since World War II has occurred during a period of divided government. Clinton cut the size of government by an enormous 3.9 percent over his eight years in office. Nixon comes in second with a 1.8 percent drop in the government’s portion of GDP over his six years.

Periods in which one party has complete rule almost always end badly, often catastrophically so. The party in power tends to have a “shoot the moon” mentality, wherein it attempts to legislate every item on their wish list, no matter how extreme, hoping that the changes they make will somehow survive eventual attacks (and “eventual” always happens).

Wrapping up, as we begin a wonderful new year, and I look back on the past 50 or so of these columns, I would like to thank and congratulate every “southpaw” out there — fellow lefties living among the righties — persons who actually prefer to put themselves in positions where they can effect the most change rather than cozily holing up with people who think exactly as they do. And, you righties, resolve to chat up your own local southpaw in the coming year. In addition to being an extremely friendly and empathetic person, you’ll find that she/he is also someone who sincerely believes we can solve almost any problem when we listen to one another and work together.

After all, we’re a scant 322 days away from the Thanksgiving family dinner table!

-----------------

Multiple award-winning author Charles Caratti (Carr) writes and edits for many well-known publications. Also a noted playwright, Caratti’s most-recent production, “Mark Twain’s A Christmas Carol,” played to sold out shows at the California Center for the Arts this past Dec. Contact him at charlescarr.com.