Friday, April 8, 2011

Government Open for Business!

Nobody is going to be thrilled about this deal. Personally, I think it's a mistake to cut federal spending so much while we're still trying to recover from a recession. If we're worried about the deficit, which we probably are more worried about than we should be right now, my preferred solution would have been to hike some taxes on people who can afford it, rather than cut services for people who can't. But other people are going to think these spending cuts are much too small. Still others, on both the left and right, would just as soon have seen the government shut down to make whatever point they would like to make. What we all have to realize is that this is not about our personal policy preferences. This is about dealing with a situation where at least two competing visions for this year's budget are pulling in completely opposite directions, and neither side has the power to impose its view on the other. This is about trying to reconcile competing ideas--the idea government is a force for good vs. the idea that government is a force for evil--that are completely irreconcilable.

A lot of people are going to complain about the style of leadership of someone who calmly brings such diametrically opposed parties into a room and just keeps working on them until they make an agreement, an agreement that most people won't like much, and who does this just so he can stand up and say that we succeeded in keeping the doors of the government open. It is still going to take more time for people to appreciate that kind of performance. Grandstanding and confrontation might make people feel better for the time being, but they don't usually get the job done.

I'm sure there will be plenty of second guessing. Some of this post-game analysis of the parties' negotiating strategies could actually be interesting: did the Democrats agree too quickly to the Republicans' numbers, thus inviting the Republicans to come back with even bigger demands? Did the Republicans fall into a trap when people started to realize that the sticking points were not primarily budget issues, but rather were all about women's health? Should the president have been more of a cheerleader for the Democrats' positions, rather than try to be a mediator? The fact is that no one can say that different negotiating strategies or a more confrontational leadership style would have achieved a better deal. That might have only resulted in no deal at all. Instead, we have to learn to live with a president who just insists on getting the job done. And as a result of that, instead of the horrible government shut-downs we experienced in the 1990's, this time the doors will stay open, the crisis is averted, and we maybe end up with a bit more hope that we can keep moving forward without always trying to destroy those who disagree with us.


  1. Well, I think Madison would be smiling right now. This is exactly what he envisioned in the Federalist papers.

    The Founding Fathers feared democracy because that implied mob-rule. For them, democracy meant that a majority was going to impose its will on a minority, and they saw that as contrary to liberty. Like you said, Joe, there is no majority that was able to impose its ideology, so they had to compromise.

    Madison believed that multiple factions ensured that compromise would rule the day. Although we don't really have multiple factions (only 2), it's good that neither of them have the majority in government.

    There are two possible scenarios. 1 is that one faction does have the majority, imposes its will on the other, and nearly half the country is totally upset and feels opressed. 2 is that neither faction has the majority, they're forced to compromise, and everyone is just a little bothered, but no one feels entirely opressed. I think the latter is the more prudent solution that is conducive to liberty.

    Of course we're going to have our extreme partisans on either side that are going to cry foul because their "champions," caved, but if they were better read in the history of our republican experiment, I think they'd be a little less irked.

  2. Jack, you're making me feel all warm and fuzzy and patriotic. I'll join in raising a glass to toast the genius of James Madison.

    I'll admit that sometimes I get so frustrated with our system, especially on issues like the budget, that I wish we had a more parliamentary-type system where the party in power could just make the decisions, and the party out of power could just bitch and moan and wait for the next election. But whenever somebody is able to make our system work, as it appeared to do this week, then maybe the best thing to do is just sit back and admire the genius of it.

  3. Well I'm glad I could inspire you =)

    I was scared when the Democrats had the House, Senate, and the Presidency, so I can't follow you on the Parliamentary path, haha. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when that Brown guy kept the Democrats from having the super senate majority.

    I know what you mean, though. I wish that government would work a lot better as well, but then we have to remember that the Founders didn't want things to work quickly. That's why the senate is there, to "cool the passions," of the mob.

    Like you said, it's frustrating that seemingly simple things don't get done, and then we're all left wondering if everything is going to be alright, but then we have to think "well, maybe the Founders knew what they were doing."

    "Admire the genius of it." I love it! =)