Thank You, Gridlock

One of the things I’ve come to realize is that gridlock is a good thing. I just finished, rather belatedly, reading Bruce Bartlett’s Imposter, which dissects the Bush failure and makes a good case for a VAT instead of the Fair Tax. I was struck by this passage:

[gridlock] is regularly denounced by political scientists and party leaders who believe that it promotes stalemate and is a barrier to dealing with pressing national problems. However, their idea of effectiveness – lots of legislation being passed – doesn’t necessarily jibe with that of the general public, financial markets or fisacal conservatives. For them, “effectiveness” often translates into unnecessary government meddling, declining stock and bond prices, and expand government.

It should always be remembered that when something really needs doing — responding to 9/11, going to War with Germany or building a highway system, government goes non-partisan — or at least, as O’Rourke observed, until the contracts are being handed out.

The first thing every schoolchild learns about the US government is that the Founding Fathers intentionally divided power among the legislative, executive and judicial branches; separated the legislative power between the house and the Senate; and created a federal system with strong state governments as a check on the national government. [MS – I doubt they learn this any more.] They deliberately avoided creation of a parliamentary system such as they have in England, where party control of the legislative and executive branches is necessarily the same. [MS – Don’t tell Neal Boortz!] The Founding Fathers wanted legislation to be slow and difficult to pass, not easy. This would weed out ill-advised measures that have momentary popularity …

Like the prescription drug program or campaign finance reform. But here’s the money quote:

Some analysts argue that rather than creating stalemate, gridlock actually contributes to effective legislating. Because each party has veto power over the other, once cannot run roughshod over the other and must therefore reach out to the other at an early stage of the legislative process and draw it in, thus creating stable compromises that can become good, lasting law.

Reagan’s tax cuts; Clinton’s welfare reform…

When one party is completely shut out, as Republicans were in 1993 and 1994 and Democrats are now [2005], they have no reasons to cooperate and a strong incentive to conduct a scorched earth policy.

Such as scuttling Social Security reform.

This forces the governing party to pass legislation using only its own members, which often means compromising with the most extreme elements within the party, when better legislation would have resulted from forging a deal with the other party.

Detainee Treatment Act. Patriot Act. Iraq War Resolution. Terri Schiavo. Think about how much of George Bush’s tenure has driven by the extreme Right — a minority even within conservative circles.

I bring this up because Congress just went on recess. And it occured to me that for the first time since 2000, they went a whole six months without screwing us in some way. No massive spending hikes, no oil subsidies, no Terry Schiavo’s dragged (or wheeled) into the halls of power, no multi-trillion-dollar expansion of Medicare, and no more rights eroded for the War on Terror.

Gridlock, I missed you! Welcome back! All is forgiven! Long live gridlock!