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Happiness Is . . .

. . . divided government. I must say that I'm pretty happy about Tuesday's results, because it returns us to the state in which I think we function best: with Congress and the Presidency in the hands of different parties. It's more common than one might suppose; in 34 of the 54 years since Eisenhower was elected for his first term ('52), at least one branch of Congress was in hands different than the executive branch, and for my money the years in which that has not been the case (60-68, 76-80, 93-94, and 2001-06) have not been distinguished by great statesmanship or great policy-making. It's something of a cliche, I know, but it's also true -- when the government's divided, everybody is fighting for the Center, and the Center is the place, in my book, where solutions are most likely to be found to most problems (if they can be found at all).
[Welfare reform is probably the best illustration of the phenomenon; Clinton never gets that through a Democratic Congress, because it pisses off too many of the Democrats' core constituents. But they need the Center -- and now, 10 years on, it looks like they've got it -- temporarily, at least].
It is weird -- to me, anyway -- to contemplate that this result is precisely the one that parliamentary systems cannot ever reach (because by definition the executive and legislative branches must all be in the same hands).

Jared_:
All varieties of divided government are not, however, equal. At the state level, Democratic executive/Republican legislature results in slightly less than half the expenditures as a Republican executive/Democratic legislature model. While I have not seen this tested on the federal level, I would not be surprised to discover similar (if perhaps not quite as pronounced) results.
11.10.2006 10:23am
Steve:
You don't have a lot of data points on the federal level. I mean, some Republican legislatures are actually tight with the purse strings, but no one would ever say this about the late Congress. In fact, the Republican Congress only went truly nuts with the spending after they got a Republican President, which is an interesting phenomenon.
11.10.2006 10:29am
Rick Shmatz (mail):
"Clinton nevers gets that (welfare reform) through a Democratic Congress..."

I will assume you are joking because I have read your blog posts long enough to know you are not ignorant. Clinton did NOT want to sign welfare reform, in fact he vetoed it twice. I give him credit for signing it, but he didnt "get" welfare reform through Congress.

I think your post is still correct, however, in that I dont think that the current Republicans would have even pushed welfare reform while controlling Congress and the Presidency. They were more intellectually honest with Clinton in the White House.
11.10.2006 10:29am
Anonymous Jim (mail):
Part of Clinton's platform in 1992 was "to end welfare as we know it". Could he have done that with a democratic congress? Not a chance. Did he want to sign the first two bills that Republican bills that he thought were "too" right of center? No. But give him a centrist bill and he signed it. I think that is what David Post was getting at.

For an interesting take by a conservative on Clinton and welfare reform see this .
11.10.2006 10:50am
Realist Liberal:

It is weird -- to me, anyway -- to contemplate that this result is precisely the one that parliamentary systems cannot ever reach (because by definition the executive and legislative branches must all be in the same hands).


Even more it seems to me that there would be a run to the fringes because the party leader needs to keep his core base happy. Especially in Britain, the executive can be ousted (vote of no confidence) in roughly 5 minutes. If the Prime Minister angers his base then it would seem hard to survive a vote of no confidence.

With all of that said, Tony Blair is what I hope is the exception because otherwise he destroys my entire theory.
11.10.2006 10:53am
Realist Liberal:

It is weird -- to me, anyway -- to contemplate that this result is precisely the one that parliamentary systems cannot ever reach (because by definition the executive and legislative branches must all be in the same hands).


Even more it seems to me that there would be a run to the fringes because the party leader needs to keep his core base happy. Especially in Britain, the executive can be ousted (vote of no confidence) in roughly 5 minutes. If the Prime Minister angers his base then it would seem hard to survive a vote of no confidence.

With all of that said, Tony Blair is what I hope is the exception because otherwise he destroys my entire theory.
11.10.2006 10:53am
kovo62 (mail):
So the welfare example augurs well for immigration reform/amnisty and federal minimum wage laws...
11.10.2006 11:02am
Houston Lawyer:
Our immigration laws won't be reformed, they will be essentially repealed. Reform would suggest that we would adopt laws that would be better than those on the books now and, since they are better, they would be effectively enforced. I have seen no indication that those advocating reform have any intention of actually enforcing the law. This applies to the president as well.
11.10.2006 11:10am
Archon (mail):
Clinton signed Welfare Reform because a veto would have costed him the 1996 election. It was no great compromise, it was political expediency.

We'll see if people are singing the same tune about divided government and bipartisanship when your taxes go up, "global warming" regulations put the economy into recession, and no judge left of John Paul Stevens can get through the Senate.

Don't believe me? Just wait two years.
11.10.2006 11:10am
Rick Shmatz (mail):
Anonymous Jim: You may be right. However, when you hear democrats talking about ending poverty, or even welfare, I seriously doubt they are talking about ending welfare programs. They are talking about redistributing income-- and that most certainly could have been done through a Democratic Congress.
11.10.2006 11:13am
John Thacker (mail):
So the welfare example augurs well for immigration reform/amnisty and federal minimum wage laws...

The minimum wage increase will happen. (Unfortunately. Good for union members and the suburban teenagers who will now find part-time jobs; bad for the poor who will lose the jobs to the middle class teenagers. On the bright side, it might hasten offshoring and outsourcing, so that'll be good for poor people in the rest of the world.)

Immigration is harder to read. My initial feeling was that immigration reform and amnesty would happen. But, about two-thirds of the House seats which changed hands were taken by Democrats running more anti-immigration (and anti-free trade, globalization, etc.) than the Republican. (Sherrod Brown and Jim Webb are big examples of this in the Senate.) So it depends on how all of those new Pat Buchanan/Lou Dobbs Democrats vote.
11.10.2006 11:14am
kovo62 (mail):
Houston Lawyer, I fear you may be right.
11.10.2006 11:15am
Chris Bell (mail):
Houston Lawyer:

Why do I get the feeling that even if we substantially increased the number of legal visas we give to Latin America (and increased our INS processing capability instead of building a wall) you still wouldn't be happy, even though the law would be followed?
11.10.2006 11:16am
AK.AK (mail):
Jared: I have seen figures in the past on federal spending, and yes, a Democratic president and Republican congress does result in the least amount of spending increase. This article discusses such a study.
11.10.2006 11:18am
Constantin:
Chris Bell:

Why do I get the feeling that you're going to get the feeling that someone's a xenophobe if he opposes anything short of setting out the welcome mat?
11.10.2006 11:24am
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
I don't know how old you are, but I guess you're gonna just LOVE living in the Great Society again, being further taxed to death, waiting for that knock at the door to have your firearms confiscated, and having your citizenship sold away. Lined up for an inheritance? Jimmy up a plan to knock your parents off before 2011...
11.10.2006 11:28am
Stephen C. Carlson (www):
It is weird -- to me, anyway -- to contemplate that this result is precisely the one that parliamentary systems cannot ever reach (because by definition the executive and legislative branches must all be in the same hands).

Thanks for that comment. Very insightful.

On the flip side, I suppose that parliamentary systems like Britain will always have a fairly identifiable leader of the loyal opposition, which does not happen in the American system when the same party controls the presidency and both houses of Congress. Even in our present situation with control of Congress in the same part, bicameralism tends to fracture the unity of the opposition.
11.10.2006 11:32am
Curious:
How do we account for the dramatic uptick in national (or for that matter state) divided government in the latter half of the 20th century? Something in the water, or the unanticipated result of changes in legal rules -- whether statutory election law changes or something else?
11.10.2006 11:33am
Chris Bell (mail):
Constantin:

Becuase I've seen too many people call a bill imposing a fine against all illegal immigrants "amnesty". Under that defintion anything short of deportation is amnesty, although that's not what it means.

Because people talk about "preserving our culture" which has nothing to do with the legal/illegal distinction supposedly at issue.

Because people who rail against illegal immigration also don't seem too keen on legal immigration, despite the fact that immigration helps our economy, especially as the baby boomers start to retire.

And because I've seen Houston Lawyer's posts here before.

Do YOU think HL would be happy if we just increased the level of legal immigration and (assumedly) preserved the rule of law?
11.10.2006 11:38am
Hans Gruber:
"Part of Clinton's platform in 1992 was "to end welfare as we know it". Could he have done that with a democratic congress? Not a chance. Did he want to sign the first two bills that Republican bills that he thought were "too" right of center? No. But give him a centrist bill and he signed it. I think that is what David Post was getting at."

But a Republican would have signed it too. How is that an argument for divided government? I guess Post thinks that a united Republican government would have been too extreme on welfare?
11.10.2006 11:41am
Hans Gruber:
Chris Bell,

What potential immigrant would NOT take up the opportunity to purchase American citizenship for $2,000? I suppose if the fine was $50 the deal still wouldn't be amenesty to you.
11.10.2006 11:43am
Kovarsky (mail):
is hans gruber the bad guy from die hard? if so, that's hilarious.
11.10.2006 11:44am
Automatic Caution Door:
I guess I'd feel better about the prospect of "divided government" if the president were actually a conservative.
11.10.2006 11:44am
Andy Freeman (mail):
> Becuase I've seen too many people call a bill imposing a fine against all illegal immigrants "amnesty".

Occasionally a jurisdiction will have a "tax amnesty", where folks who have failed to pay some tax in the past are given a break. They pay a fraction of what they owe and everything is forgiven - they're legal going forward - they get a green card so to speak.

In every other circumstance, "amnesty" means "complete or partial forgiveness for past offense". Why does Bell think that immigration is different?
11.10.2006 11:46am
Hans Gruber:
Put another way, what if the government proposed releasing every embezzeler in the country if they paid a $2,000 fine. How would you define this proposal, as amnesty or as "earned freedom"? Would this "earned freedom" not effect the rates of embezzlement and related crimes?
11.10.2006 11:47am
John Thacker (mail):
How do we account for the dramatic uptick in national (or for that matter state) divided government in the latter half of the 20th century?

Well, the entire situation with the various Southern Democrats probably makes the entire calculation more complicated.

Briefly, though, the whipping system is much weaker in the US than in a parliamentary system as well (since the fate of the executive does not depend on a single vote of confidence), which allows for more variation within a party, and even situations like with the Southern Democrats who were essentially Pat Buchanan Democrats, and whose positions were often at odds with the nationally nominated Presidential candidates.
11.10.2006 11:47am
Hans Gruber:
"is hans gruber the bad guy from die hard? if so, that's hilarious."

Yes. =)
11.10.2006 11:48am
BobH (mail):
Seems to me that the best thing about a divided government is that fewer bills will be passed, meaning that less will get done, meaning that the bastards will cause less harm. As Twain said, "No man's life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session."
11.10.2006 11:55am
Hans Gruber:
Chris Bell,

So opposing massive legal immigration from the third world=xenophobe?
11.10.2006 12:03pm
Steve:
I wish I had enough paper to stick all these end-of-the-world predictions in a time capsule. "The Democrats will take all our guns! Oh no!"
11.10.2006 12:11pm
Davebo (mail):
Steve,

That's just the start. They'll also force you to marry your dog, give Osama US citizenship, raise your taxes (somehow they'll force Bush to sign off on the tax increases). And don't forget about forced abortions, federal subsidies for flag burners, heck, they might even get us into an ill conceived war and then botch it!
11.10.2006 12:18pm
Kevin P. (mail):
Steve:

I wish I had enough paper to stick all these end-of-the-world predictions in a time capsule. "The Democrats will take all our guns! Oh no!"


Here is something you can print out and put into your time capsule: San Francisco's recent ban on the possession of handguns by law abiding citizens and the sale and distribution of ALL firearms. This authoritarian legislation was passed by a majority of San Francisco's liberal Democrat voters. It was passed in defiance of California's firearms pre-emption law that forbids cities from enacting such laws.
11.10.2006 12:20pm
Chris Bell (mail):
No, but being criticising any plan short of sending 12 million people back home as "amnesty" certainly is.

1/3 of all illegal immigration comes from people who get visas to stay here and then don't leave. (Which is also how all of the 9/11 hijackers came here.) Where's our hundrer-mile long, billion dollar wall against that?
11.10.2006 12:20pm
whit:
Kevin,

San Francisco is an autonomous "state within a state" as gavin newsom proved when he ignored state law and not only sanctioned, but practically performed gay marriage ceremonies himself.

i was kinda dissapointed the governator didn't send troops in to san fran, and fwiw, i'm not even agaisnt gay marriage. i just find that level of lawlessness and arrogance by an executive branch member to be truly disturbing (cue: bush analogies from the anti-bush folk... :l)
11.10.2006 12:26pm
Houston Lawyer:
With regard to immigration "reform" we are actually proposing to reward the breaking of the law with citizenship. That is an absurd result. I would have no problem with granting most of those illegals already here green cards since that would make them legal and much less subject to oppression by mafia types.

However, we have been down this road before in 1986. Any citizenship reward program that we put into place for illegals need to go hand-in-hand with enforcement. This means deportation for those who do not comply and a permanant bar on legal status for those caught.

Nice to know that its considered racist to take the position that all foreigners are not automatically entitled to US citizenship if they can manage to get here. I have noted before that we are blessed that the vast majority of the illegals who come to this country are from a similar culture, are hard working and can be fairly easily assimilated. That does not mean that I want to import Mexico's poverty into this country.
11.10.2006 12:28pm
Kevin P. (mail):
Whit, amen to that. At some point, at least some liberal Democrats turn out to be unalterably opposed to any kind of rule of law. They demand that we peons obey the oppressive laws that they pass to criminalize our victimless behavior, and turn around and disregard the plain meaning of the laws that they don't like.

I support gay marriage as well, when it is obtained through the democratic process of the legislature or referendum, not through the power grabs of the judiciary and the San Francisco executive.
11.10.2006 12:31pm
Steve:
San Francisco's recent ban on the possession of handguns by law abiding citizens and the sale and distribution of ALL firearms.

I freely acknowledge that urban Democrats often have a gun control agenda. Rudy Giuliani favored gun control too. But the issue is virtually dead at the national level, and there's certainly not going to be any radical confiscation.

As dedicated readers of these comment sections should be aware, Democrats will be far, far too busy surrendering in the War on Terror and making gay marriage mandatory to have any time for the gun issue.
11.10.2006 12:33pm
Rick Shmatz (mail):
Maybe it is dead at the national level because Republicans have been in charge for the past 10 years.
11.10.2006 12:41pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"No, but being criticising any plan short of sending 12 million people back home as "amnesty" certainly is."

What's the problem with deporting people who are here illegally? Do you think everyone in the world has a right to sneak into the US? Do you the migrants who entered illegally don't break any laws? How does someone get a job without a work permit? Without a social security number you have to either commit tax fraud (work off the books) or identity theft. If you look closely you will see that the Senate amnesty bill forgives crimes other than illegal entry including identity theft?

What country in the world doesn't imprison or deport illegal migrants? Certainly not Mexico. It vigiously defends its southern border. It puts illegals in jail. Do you think Canada has a free immigration policy? Go to the web site and look at the stringent qualifications they impose on immigration applicants.
11.10.2006 12:43pm
Kevin P. (mail):
Moving the goalposts - nicely done, Steve!

No doubt a confiscation that still allowed citizens to legally possess of muzzeloading muskets and bayonets would not be a "radical confiscation" to you.

We know the way the game works, Steve.
11.10.2006 12:44pm
Chris Bell (mail):

Nice to know that its considered racist to take the position that all foreigners are not automatically entitled to US citizenship if they can manage to get here.

Did I say that?

With regard to immigration "reform" we are actually proposing to reward the breaking of the law with citizenship. That is an absurd result. I would have no problem with granting most of those illegals already here green cards

So you're ok with permanent residency? That's fine with me; I'm just checking. I don't think many people who are "hard-liners" on this issue would agree with you.

I have noted before that we are blessed that the vast majority of the illegals who come to this country are from a similar culture

I think we're blessed because most of the immigrants that come to this county are (and have always been) hard-working people looking for a better life. This seems to be true even for people that come from different cultures.

That does not mean that I want to import Mexico's poverty into this country.

This is why is am suspicious of people who are suspicious of immigration as well as the "it's amnesty if we don't deport everyone" crowd. We don't import Mexico's poverty into this country anymore than we imported Ireland, Italy, Germany, or England's poverty at different times in history. Immigration is good for the economy, especially an economy overburdened with old people. There's a reason open immigration is part of the EU reforms. As a conservative, it should be intuition that free markets do better, and free movement of people is part of that.

I don't think we should have "free" immigration, but throughout our entire history (every 20 years or so) we get a large influx of immigrants from a certain community. Invariably, some group demagouges about ruining our country and our culture. It doesn't happen, 20 years go by, and some other group becomes the new threat.

The original point being that the Democrats are not going to "repeal the immigration laws." But will they act like illegal immigration is threatening to ruin our society and should be prevented no matter the cost or practicality? No, and they are right to do so.
11.10.2006 12:54pm
Steve:
Maybe it is dead at the national level because Republicans have been in charge for the past 10 years.

It's dead because the Democrats want to win elections, sure. They've gladly run pro-gun candidates all over the place and now there's no way the more liberal members of the caucus could push restrictive gun laws through without a revolt taking place. There's no point in arguing about whether the evil schemers at the root of the Democratic Party still want to confiscate your guns in their heart of hearts; I'm talking strictly about political reality here.

Moving the goalposts - nicely done, Steve!

Yeah. Uh, I started out by ridiculing a post that said "you're gonna just LOVE waiting for that knock at the door to have your firearms confiscated." The goalposts have remained exactly in that spot ever since.

No doubt a confiscation that still allowed citizens to legally possess of muzzeloading muskets and bayonets would not be a "radical confiscation" to you.

Can someone explain why gun ownership and paranoia seem to be positively correlated? I would have thought a gun should give you MORE peace of mind, rather than less.

As a proud Democrat, a non-gun owner, living in a major urban center, I have zero desire to see a single gun law passed. Absolutely none, do what you will. That doesn't mean I really understand what makes some of you tick, however.
11.10.2006 1:11pm
Houston Lawyer:
When previous waves of immigrants landed in this country, they weren't entitled to the benefits of government subsidies. They couldn't get government housing, food or free health care. Illegal aliens in this country cannot now be legally denied these benefits. This places an enormous strain on our resources. There are costs as well as benefits to immigration.

Each previous wave of immigrants was followed by a lull during which time the immigrants were assimilated. These waves of immigrants often brought poverty and lawless behavior with them. There's a reason we still have the term Paddywagon in our vocabulary.

I believe the vast majority of Americans reject the Wall Street Journal's position that people should be as free to move where they want as capital is. That notion is why Turkey will never be allowed into the EU.
11.10.2006 1:16pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
Although I am an advocate of divided government, I actually think these next two years will have a greater negative effect on future generations than these past six years of a united government. Bush is quite simply a RINO who has done more to expand big government, spending , entitlements, Wilsoniasm foreign policy ideals, etc. Now, he has a Congress that is even more intent on expanding big government, spending, entitlements, etc., than the GOP in Congress could have dreamed about in their wildest dreams. Unfortunately, future generations will be paying the tab that today's generation will rack up.
11.10.2006 1:22pm
Nathan Jones (mail):
Chris Bell:1/3 of all illegal immigration comes from people who get visas to stay here and then don't leave. (Which is also how all of the 9/11 hijackers came here.) Where's our hundrer-mile long, billion dollar wall against that?

Look, I'm strongly pro-open borders but I'd have to say this statement is a little silly since you've conceeded that the wall will stop 2/3 of illegal immigrants....

-nj
11.10.2006 1:23pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"We don't import Mexico's poverty into this country anymore than we imported Ireland, Italy, Germany, or England's poverty at different times in history."

Of course we do and of course we did. We are getting migrants from the underclass of other countries. What is the net benefit to the US of these immigrants? What happens when the Democrats pass universal health care? Don't you think that will include both legal and illegal migrants, and their relatives? It's true that we get a source of cheap labor, but so what? The benefit net of shadow costs is not positive. Then there is problem of importing criminals. Mexico is one of the most crime-ridden corrupt countries in the world. Go over to the Becker-Posner blog and read about Becker's recent experiences traveling to Mexico. He was warned point blank by the locals that it's not safe to walk the streets, even in the best neighborhoods. Here is a quote from Becker:

"As one illustration, we were on our way by car to a luncheon meeting in the middle of the city with an important government official, but were caught in extremely heavy traffic due to a political demonstration. As the time of the trip increased from an expected 20 minutes to over an hour, I suggested we walk the remaining distance, which was less than half a mile. The driver, and my host, a native of this city now teaching in U.S., both said it was too dangerous…"


As to past immigration, say around the turn of the century, we did import poverty as opposed to the middle class Europeans who came here with skills after WWII. There's another big distinction between migrants from Mexico and migrants from Europe. Countries like Hungry, Poland, Italy and Russia don't bear grudges against the US for having "stolen" part of their territory. These countries didn't hand out fake IDs to their citizens illegally migrating to the US.
11.10.2006 1:32pm
Respondent (mail):
"because it pisses off too many of the Democrats' core constituents"

Totally off topic, but can anyone explain when "piss" is considered obscene? It appears on every list of the seven dirty words that I can find, yet I hear the expression "piss off" on the radio all the time. Is it obscene only when used as a synonym for urine?
11.10.2006 1:33pm
OK Lawyer:
David Maquera said it first, but this is not a divided government. W is a liberal with an R next to his name.
11.10.2006 1:39pm
Bret (mail):
Zarkov touched on at least one valid point: unfettered immigration from mexico and the welfare state cannot coexist. It's simple mathematics. We heavily subsidize the poor in this country (albeit not as heavily as in other nations), if we allow limitless immigration of mexican poor then we're looking at a severe economic crisis.
11.10.2006 1:39pm
Bruce:
It's more common than one might suppose; in 34 of the 54 years since Eisenhower was elected for his first term ('52), at least one branch of Congress was in hands different than the executive branch....

Assuming randomness (and what's more random than politics?), shouldn't we expect one of the two houses to be governed by the opposite party from the president 75% of the time? In which case, it's LESS common than one might suppose.
11.10.2006 1:44pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Nathan Jones:

"Look, I'm strongly pro-open borders …"

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "open borders," but if you mean that anyone in the world can migrate to the US just because they want to, then you should think through the consequences and meaning of such a position.

A country without borders is not a sovereign state. Borders are the essential component of a claim to sovereignty. That's why countries go to war over border disputes. Without borders you become something like Antarctica, or a patch of open sea. To my knowledge no country in the world has open borders. Why to you make an exception for the US?
11.10.2006 1:46pm
Enoch:
this result is precisely the one that parliamentary systems cannot ever reach (because by definition the executive and legislative branches must all be in the same hands).

I have certainly envied the parliamentary system its ability to get rid of an obviously incompetent and unpopular leader quickly and painlessly, whereas in our system we're stuck with the guy until the end of his term. Think of it! Instead of 8 years each of Clinton and Dubya, for a combined devastating 16 years, we'd have had maybe a couple of years of each and then somebody else would be in the command chair.
11.10.2006 1:50pm
frankcross (mail):
Becker also favors immigration. Go figure.

Of course we can't have totally open borders, the question is the extent of the efforts we make to stop immigration. Without immigration, there would be no minimum wage debate -- bottom end wages would be much higher, as would prices and our trade deficit distinctly worse than it already is. Without immigration, we'd be looking at a Social Security collapse much earlier. Without immigration, we'd have fewer hardworking people (and entrepreneurs).

Lots of US citizens break the law. Exceeding the speed limit creates a very real risk to human life. But they are still valuable members of our society.
11.10.2006 1:56pm
David W Drake (mail):
Houston Lawyer--

I think you're right about one of the differences between this wave of immigrants and those in the past. Part of the problem is the existence of welfare programs AND the judicial abolition of the "rights-privileges" distinction.

However, one big difference is also that today's legal immigrant is very likely to be the aging parent of another legal immigrant, who is entitled to Medicaid, etc., rather than a younger, hard-working person who will contribute to our economy rather than taking benefits for which he or she has not contributed. That's what I see in our immigration system that really needs to be fixed.

As long as the U.S. economy and legal system is significantly better than the rest of the world's in general and Mexico's in particular, we will attract immigrants, legal and illegal. So let's legally attract the ones we need.
11.10.2006 1:56pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

I freely acknowledge that urban Democrats often have a gun control agenda. Rudy Giuliani favored gun control too. But the issue is virtually dead at the national level, and there's certainly not going to be any radical confiscation.


It was dead when the dems were in the minority- have you not noticed how democratic leaders are now voicing their intentions on this and other issues after the elections? Pelosi, Rangel ("we'll team up with Mayor Bloomberg on gun control")?

Hell, they couldn't even find Pelosi the ten days prior to the elections.

So be it, that's politics- but denying the agendas is laughable, and, the people who voted democratic probably elected people more radical than themselves, and thereby strengthened that part of the party.

So there is no mistaking- I'm a republican, and I believe the party got just exactly what it deserved this time around.
11.10.2006 1:56pm
Chris Bell (mail):
...As Tony Blair completes the longest prime ministership in England's history while also having the lowest approval rating.
11.10.2006 1:58pm
Rex:
Now, he has a Congress that is even more intent on expanding big government, spending, entitlements, etc., than the GOP in Congress could have dreamed about in their wildest dreams. Unfortunately, future generations will be paying the tab that today's generation will rack up.

What's your evidence for that?

W is a liberal with an R next to his name.

Wow. Just wow.
11.10.2006 1:59pm
te:

Lined up for an inheritance? Jimmy up a plan to knock your parents off before 2011...

Always nice to see someone with the courage to stand up for the 3/10 of one percent of the population.
11.10.2006 2:00pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

Always nice to see someone with the courage to stand up for the 3/10 of one percent of the population.


good point- people who have more than other people should be penalized, if not crushed.
11.10.2006 2:03pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Curious, I attribute the divided governments of the past 50 years at least in part (large part) to the fact that we no longer have important domestic issues to settle.

Slavery? Gone. Paper money? Adopted. Right to join a union? Enacted. Etc.

This is as you would expect from government-by-tinkering.You might also expect that national government would become like condominium government: My friend who lives in a condo asks, why are condo politics so vicious? And answers, because they're not about anything.

All to the good, if you really don't have any problems. If, however, you are under attack from Islam, divided government begins to look not so desirable. I am less concerned whether I can carry a hidden pistol than whether people who hate me can carry atomic bombs. Way less.
11.10.2006 2:08pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

I am less concerned whether I can carry a hidden pistol than whether people who hate me can carry atomic bombs. Way less.


No one really needs a gun, until they really need one.
11.10.2006 2:10pm
JB:
When previous waves of immigrants landed in this country, they weren't entitled to the benefits of government subsidies.

Precisely. You can have a welfare state, unrestricted immigration, and prosperity (pick 2).
11.10.2006 2:22pm
JB:
Which is to say, I'm all for whatever welfare state we have being restricted to people here legally, regardless of what we do about immigration.
11.10.2006 2:30pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
frankcross:

"Without immigration, there would be no minimum wage debate …"

We had a minimum wage long before we had a problem or a debate on immigration.

"… bottom end wages would be much higher, as would prices and our trade deficit distinctly worse than it already is."

That's not clear. Migrants, especially the illegal ones tend to work in the service industry like construction and restaurants. As such they do not produce exportable products, so there is no first order affect on trade deficit. Besides the major part of our deficit is with China and that's caused by Chinese monetary policy. As for agriculture, we always have the option of increased use of automation. Ultimately the cost of food to the consumer might increase, but that would offset by the reduced costs in the government benefits provided to migrants and their elderly relatives who do not work.

"Without immigration, we'd be looking at a Social Security collapse much earlier."


How much SS taxes do immigrants pay? Remember an illegal immigrant has to work off the books, or use a fake SS number. Social Security benefits taper off with increasing contributions. The system is skewed to the lower end. What we need are high skill immigrants who will earn high incomes. In case you didn't notice the SS system is an income transference program not only across generations, but across income strata as well.

"… we'd have fewer hardworking people (and entrepreneurs)."


Are you telling me that Mexicans are harder working than Americans or Europeans? If that's the case why is Mexico such a mess? Norm Matloff at UC Davis has refuted the myth of the foreign entrepreneur. Google him to see his argument.

"Lots of US citizens break the law. Exceeding the speed limit creates a very real risk to human life. But they are still valuable members of our society."

This is an argument that I fail to understand. Why does that mean that illegal migrants are valuable members of American society? Have you ever driven in Mexico? Besides speeding is an infraction. Identify theft and tax evasion are felonies.
11.10.2006 2:31pm
Rex:
Curious, I attribute the divided governments of the past 50 years at least in part (large part) to the fact that we no longer have important domestic issues to settle.

You mean issues like the disappearing middle class, unaffordable health care, immigration, climate change, oil dependency, nationless terror cells, and performance-enhancing drugs?
11.10.2006 2:32pm
Archon (mail):
This is what happens when the American people go to the voting booth to pull a lever for a party that campaigned on the basis that they weren't allied with Bush.

The Democrats presented few ideas during the campaign. Their campaign slogan was "Hey we aren't the guys that are friends with Bush." Their commericials did nothing but attack Bush and the war in Iraq. They didn't present any coherent policy ideas during the election

So, the idiots that elected them shouldn't be surprised when they start talking about tax hikes, investigations, impeachment, gun control, and the entire liberal agenda.
11.10.2006 2:32pm
Constantin:
Always nice to see someone with the courage to stand up for the 3/10 of one percent of the population.

Isn't doing that, in reality, courageous? Standing up for 99.7% of the population is easy because everyone's on your side already.
11.10.2006 2:33pm
M. Au-Lim:

Kevin P:
Here is something you can print out and put into your time capsule: San Francisco's recent ban on the possession of handguns by law abiding citizens and the sale and distribution of ALL firearms. This authoritarian legislation was passed by a majority of San Francisco's liberal Democrat voters. It was passed in defiance of California's firearms pre-emption law that forbids cities from enacting such laws.


While you're adding things to this particular time capsule, you can also add in the fact that the law was struck down this summer.
11.10.2006 2:36pm
Just an Observer:
I must say I am amused by the developing meme that there is something inherently extreme, outrageous or improper about conducting congressional oversight investigations of the executive branch. It is the relative absence of oversight during the past several years of one-party government that is unusual.
11.10.2006 2:40pm
Steve:
Hell, they couldn't even find Pelosi the ten days prior to the elections.

Maybe you couldn't. The rest of us were fully aware of her whereabouts, and laughing at the Republicans' absurd efforts to push this meme that she was in hiding. You're getting your truth from some untruthful sources, friend.

I also haven't seen anything Pelosi has said about gun control since the election. You said she made such a statement, but you didn't provide a link or a quote. Perhaps you could help me out here.

I really don't care if people choose to believe that the Democrats are going to spend the next two years trying to take away their guns. All I ask is that if it doesn't turn out that way, they acknowledge they were wrong about this supposed gospel truth.
11.10.2006 2:40pm
Hans Gruber:
"Without immigration, we'd be looking at a Social Security collapse much earlier."

The average illegal immigrant makes around 50% of what the average American does. So what you are really talking about is making the pyramid scam that is social security even more dependent on an ever-increasing population. What are we gonna do when all the Mexicans retire, import four Chinese?

Further the net tax benefit should be looked at as a whole, not compartmentalized. When this is done it's clear illegal immigrants (especially if they are legalized!) are a net drain on government revenue today as well as tomorrow.
11.10.2006 2:41pm
Spartacus (www):
Hey, Chris Bell, are you THE Chris Bell (who just lost as Democratic Candidate for Texas governor), or are you intentionally appropriating his name, or it that really your name, and just a coincidence? Just curious.
11.10.2006 2:50pm
whit:
IMPORTANT DOMESTIC ISSUES LIKE :"and performance-enhancing drugs?"

are you serious?

media hype aside, let's talk facts.

NO LD50.

both the DEA and the AMA testified AGAINST scheduling anabolic-androgenic steroids.

non-toxic and naturally occurring (except for the methylated orals, which ARE hepatatoxic, much like tylenol i might add) etc.

the demonization of AAS is a complete media and govt. scare campaign 'for the children'

if u think this is a "serious domestic issue", you are daft

i am for drug decriminalization IN GENERAL, but in the case of AAS, you have a drug that has no toxicity (again, methylated orals, excepted), does not promote violent activity (i will be more than willing to debate so called "roid rage" which has very little medical science to back it up), is not addictive, etc.

it is amazing the way some people just lap up whatever they have been fed by the media without checking the science

another 'performance enhancing drug', ephedrine/ephedra was banned (for sale as a performance enhancer/diet aid, by congress using bogus AER's and in direct contravention of the DSHEA legislation

fortunately, an appeals court overturned that ban.

the chinese have been using ephedra for centuries.

but one grossly overweight baseball player, with a heart condition, and also using cocaine, dehydrates himself and works out in extreme heat - dies, and all of a sudden ephedra is EVIL

get real
11.10.2006 2:50pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
I freely acknowledge that urban Democrats often have a gun control agenda. Rudy Giuliani favored gun control too. But the issue is virtually dead at the national level, and there's certainly not going to be any radical confiscation.


Right only in the sense that they won't actually call it "confiscation" right it way. They'll call it "registration" first. I don't think it's escape anyone's notice that the supposedly "pro-gun" Democrats are lot like Paul Hackett in that they're pro-gun control but mask it by talking about how much they're into hunting and sports shooting which is usually a sure sign that you have a stealth anti-gunner running as a pro-RTKBA.

Personally I've long thought that the "divided government" meme was a load of BS as the record on "divided government" is mixed at best and opens the way for a lot of truly bad legislation just like it did when we had a Democratic Senate during Bush's first term (which the proponents of "divided government" routinely ignore). The fact is that the biggest fiscal problem facing the federal government is entitlement spending for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The public has just turned out a bunch of Congressmen who were decidedly pro-reform in favor of anti-reform candidates and a party whose chief criticism was that we're not spending enough.

The only thing that "gridlock" guarantees is that we're wasting another two years and adding about $1.2 Trillion to the unfunded liability for these programs which automatically increase each year just by Congress doing nothing. Well done.
11.10.2006 2:51pm
frankcross (mail):
Goodness, there are false factual claims abounding. As for the net effect of immigration, there is rigorous economic research here, see, e.g.,

Lee &Miller, Immigration, Social Security and Broader Fiscal Impacts. American Economic Review

It demonstrates a negative short term effect on state government budgets, a positive short term effect on federal budgets and a very positive long term effect on both state and federal budgets.

As for SS, I'm happy importing four Chinese when the Mexicans retire, though I prefer not to stereotype people by nationality.

Re Pelosi and the claim you couldn't find her ten days before the election, this is blatantly false. The day before the election she campaigned on the ground in the three closely contested Connecticut races.

Why are people posting information that is demonstrably false?
11.10.2006 3:19pm
Chris Bell (mail):
Yes, I am THE Chris Bell. That's why I lost the election. I spent far too much time posting at The Volokh Conspiracy.

Thorley Winston, try thinking "moderate government" when you here "divided government" - maybe that will help. Also, look out for those pesky checks and balances! (Which tend not to work too well with one-party government, something the framers didn't expect.)
11.10.2006 3:25pm
BobNSF (mail):
The issue isn't politically divided government. What works is constitutionally divided government, a gift from the founders. The whole thing works best when each branch keeps an eye on the others and demands institutional responsibility. Political division encourages the adversarial relationship between the branches. Within reason, that's a good thing, but it's by no means a requirement for proper governance.

Sadly (for the GOP), the Republican Congress, having gone way too far against Clinton, completely abandoned its checking function against Bush, and he completely dropped his (one veto in six years?).
11.10.2006 3:39pm
Hans Gruber:
Frank,

Demonstrably false? Check out the Center for Immigration Studies. I don't know why it should come as a shock that illegal and legal immigrants from the Third World are a net fiscal liability.

http://www.cis.org/articles/2004/fiscalexec.html#Complex

"Although we find that the net effect of illegal households is negative at the federal level, the same is not true for Social Security and Medicare. We estimate that illegal households create a combined net benefit for these two programs in excess of $7 billion a year, accounting for about 4 percent of the total annual surplus in these two programs. However, they create a net deficit of $17.4 billion in the rest of the budget, for a total net loss of $10.4 billion. Nonetheless, their impact on Social Security and Medicare is unambiguously positive. Of course, if the Social Security totalization agreement with Mexico signed in June goes into effect, allowing illegals to collect Social Security, these calculations would change."

It's stupid to claim that illegals are going to save SS. They are a net fiscal drain, there is not SS "lockbox," just a common pool of revenue. What they overpay in SS they get back from other programs. By hurting the general fiscal situation they are hurting Social Security.

Morever, the negative fiscal impact increases upon legalization; which makes sense, poor people don't pay much in taxes but legalization makes them eligible for many more programs. Bush's immigration policy will be a fiscal, cultural, and economic disaster. Peasant labor isn't the engine for the modern industrial economy.
11.10.2006 3:48pm
whit:
otoh, studies show that smokers are a net plus, economically due to their earlier death rates, and high taxes they pay when buying cigarettes

so, we just require illegal immigrants to smoke 2 packs a day, and solve the problem?
11.10.2006 3:52pm
Mark Field (mail):

When previous waves of immigrants landed in this country, they weren't entitled to the benefits of government subsidies.


This is a silly claim. Of course they were. Just for example, they could take advantage of the Homestead Act; they got to attend public schools, use any other public spaces (e.g., courts), and receive the benefits of all public policies (e.g., police and safety regulations); often they could vote (straight off the boat); assuming they were white, they got all the social and economic benefits of the affirmative action for whites which characterized our country until recently (e.g., they got to serve in the military and draw military pensions).

I have no idea what "subsidies" you have in mind, but there needs to be some realism here about historical conditions.
11.10.2006 3:56pm
BobNSF (mail):

When previous waves of immigrants landed in this country, they weren't entitled to the benefits of government subsidies.


Many government programs that "conservatives" abhor were actually brought into being to address the appalling living conditions of those who arrived in the great wave of immigration in the late 19th century.

There's a common thread between those conditions and the current problem: greed. Not on the part of hard-working immigrants, but on the part of those who would exploit them. Slum lords and others in the old days were at least "only" exploiting legal arrivals. Today's exploiters encourage more and more people to come here. Unless we address the exploitation and STOP it, the flow will never stop.
11.10.2006 4:04pm
Shake-N-Bake (www):
Totally off topic, but can anyone explain when "piss" is considered obscene? It appears on every list of the seven dirty words that I can find, yet I hear the expression "piss off" on the radio all the time. Is it obscene only when used as a synonym for urine?

To answer, yes, it is only considered obscene (on the radio at least) when used as the synonym for the excretory function or liquid. As I was taught in my radio training, you can say 'pissed off' -- OK; 'pissed on' -- not OK.

To the topic, you have to remember the Democrats can't do anything without Bush signing it. Your guns are safe, you're not going to see tax increases other than allowing the tax cuts to expire (and frankly, they're 'expired' for a chunk of people already due to the AMT that's going to jump up and bite a lot of people who deign to deduct things like 'mortgage' and other shady things like that), and there is not going to be any impeachment -- Pelosi has already said that's off the table. She's also promised that they'd be implementing 'pay as you go' and if they can't get any tax increases past Bush, then hey, doesn't that mean less spending, not more? If they still control both houses in 2008 and a Democrat gets elected as President, then you can start your worrying. Right now most of it isn't realistic.

You guys are overreacting so much, you sound like the Kossacks after the 2004 election. Please tell me you're all not that stupid.
11.10.2006 4:05pm
Hans Gruber:
Mark, you can't be serious.... Right? You have no idea of the difference between government in 1900 and government in 2006? Welfare, medicaid, medicare, and social security, an explosion in the cost (and duration) of education, to name a few. Don't be a fool, the commenter wasn't saying immigrants in 1900 didn't receive government services. He was saying that he number of government services is exponentially bigger today. And he's right.
11.10.2006 4:08pm
frankcross (mail):
Hans, the academic research is more rigorous and less biased than that conducted by an anti-immigration think tank.
And immigrants are not entitled to all those programs you reference. They are prohibited (or may be prohibited by states) from participating in Medicaid, social security is limited to social security contributions made with a US SS#, which excludes many, same situation with Medicare, and they are ineligible for most welfare payments.
11.10.2006 4:37pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

I also haven't seen anything Pelosi has said about gun control since the election. You said she made such a statement, but you didn't provide a link or a quote. Perhaps you could help me out here.


in my post I referred to "issues"- Pelosi jumped up on the war right away, Rangel I quoted (to the effect of) about gun control. the reference was to Pelosi and others not making a lot of noise about what their actual intentions were so as not to rock the voters' boat. and I capped that with saying it was politics, and by that, acceptable as politics goes.

so rather than write a really long post, I used the word "issues" to denote more than the subject of gun control, referring to other agendas.

Pelosi was noticably missing from the news cycles prior to the elections (if you want verification, run along and find it yourself), only peeking out her cute lil bobbed nose just prior to them, as she was cited as being in absentia.

No, Steve, I don't think I can help you.

and from now on, I think you should verify all of your statements with links.

I get my news the same places you do.
11.10.2006 4:46pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
So they're ineligible for medicare... did this paper take into account that without medicare they're relying on local emergency rooms to provide free service?

I ask because google didn't turn up more than an abstract of the paper. Do you have a link?
11.10.2006 4:49pm
John Herbison (mail):
The period from 1960 to 1968 was not "distinguished by great statesmanship or great policy-making"? Let's see, now. Do you contend that this nation would be better off without the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, open housing, Medicare and Medicaid?
11.10.2006 4:51pm
Mark Field (mail):

the commenter wasn't saying immigrants in 1900 didn't receive government services. He was saying that he number of government services is exponentially bigger today.


I have this funny habit of taking what people say at face value. I quoted what he said and it was NOT your revisionist claim.

Now, it's entirely possible he MEANT what you said, but it's hard to call me a "fool" for reading his actual words.


You have no idea of the difference between government in 1900 and government in 2006? Welfare, medicaid, medicare, and social security, an explosion in the cost (and duration) of education, to name a few.


Of course there are more benefits today in absolute dollar terms, though I have no idea how to measure relative impact. In any case, this simply gets us back to the debate among economists over whether immigrants are a net burden or benefit.
11.10.2006 4:52pm
Brian Kalt:
2001-06? The Democrats controlled the Senate between Jeffords's switch in 2001 and January 2003, after the midterm elections.
11.10.2006 4:55pm
Bret (mail):

Do you contend that this nation would be better off without the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, open housing, Medicare and Medicaid?


No
No
Neighborhoods are still prety segregated.
Yes
Yes
11.10.2006 5:34pm
Waldensian (mail):
Kevin P.

Here is something you can print out and put into your time capsule: San Francisco's recent ban on the possession of handguns by law abiding citizens and the sale and distribution of ALL firearms. This authoritarian legislation was passed by a majority of San Francisco's liberal Democrat voters. It was passed in defiance of California's firearms pre-emption law that forbids cities from enacting such laws.

Assume that CA itself, rather than San Francisco, decided to ban all guns. So what? The Second Amendment doesn't apply to the states, so they can do whatever they want with respect to firearms.

I'm very much in favor of the right to keep and bear arms as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, but if we're going to respect federalism in general, we have to respect it here. Laboratories of democracy and all that.
11.10.2006 5:41pm
H. Tuttle:
>>"However, one big difference is also that today's legal immigrant is very likely to be the aging parent of another legal immigrant, who is entitled to Medicaid, etc., rather than a younger, hard-working person who will contribute to our economy rather than taking benefits for which he or she has not contributed. "<<<

I can personally attested to witnessing this in Queens, NY. In my neighborhood I see dozens of aged pensioners from third-world countries, in dishdallas, turbins, etc. basically taking their morning constitutionals around the neighborhood as I'm commuting into work, who have been brought over by their younger sons or daughters. How do I know? I ask them -- at least the ones who can converse in English. They openly say they're collecting Medicaid/Medicare and some are collecting social security benefits. (And this, too, is readily stated after speaking to them about 1/2 an hour).
11.10.2006 5:44pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
2001-06? The Democrats controlled the Senate between Jeffords's switch in 2001 and January 2003, after the midterm elections.


Shhhh, we don't like to mention that fact as it upsets the "divided government leads to gridlock which leads to less spending" meme.
11.10.2006 5:45pm
dick thompson (mail):
Funny thing about those 34 years. Almost all of them were demo congress with a republican president. With the exception of Clinton's last 6 years, the democrats had only 1961-1968 (JFK and LBJ), 1977-1980 (Jimmah Cartuh of blessed fame **spit**) and Billy Jeff (1993-2000) when they were in power. The rest of the time the people were smart enough to elect a republican president.
11.10.2006 5:49pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
I agree with the original entry by David Post. In our country, having both the Executive and the Legislative branches controlled by the same party encourages the extremists in the controlling party to think they can enact all of their nutty ideas, breds arrogance and corruption by the party in power, and makes a mockery of the Legislature's "check" on the Executive.

To David's examples, I would add that the historic budget deficits of the 1980s and early 1990s, incurred by conservative hero Reagan pushing through tax cuts and large increases in military spending (sound familiar anyone?) were largely eliminated by Bush 41's and Clinton's pushing through tax increases (supported by Democrats, who controlled one or both houses of Congress from the 1980s until 1994), Bush 41's and Clinton's cutting of defense spending because of the end of the cold war, and then by the Republican Congress' ability to control Clinton's spending on domestic programs in the late 1990s.

Likewise, the Democratic-controlled Congress in the 1970s uncovered the pervasive corruption of Nixon's administration, and forced him from office (a good thing, in my book).

These are more historic examples of how divided government has worked better than a parlimentarian style system of one-party control. Anyone have any countervailing examples they care to cite?
11.10.2006 5:59pm
Perseus (mail):
So far as I can tell, the Lee &Miller article ("Immigration, Social Security, and Broader Fiscal Impacts") does not distinguish between legal v. illegal immigration or between the region/country of origin of immigrants. To the extent that illegal immigrants and immigrants from Latin America have less education on average, they would presumably impose greater costs than immigrants as a whole. And indeed Lee &Miller conclude that a policy of admitting only young, highly educated immigrants would have a significant positive effect on government finances (while admitting more immigrants under the current policy would have only a "quite small" positive effect on SS and a negative effect on the finances of states where immigration is concentrated). Thus to the extent that reducing illegal immigration or immigration from Latin America increases the relative share of more educated immigrants, it should have a net positive fiscal effect.
11.10.2006 7:02pm
Constantin:
I agree with Ted Kennedy &Co.'s argument made over the past few years. We must strive for divided government at all costs. Which, now that both houses of Congress are Democratic, must mean that the Democrats will concede the '08 presidential election.

Right?
11.10.2006 7:04pm
Cobb (www):
if only we had a libertarian judiciary....
11.10.2006 7:20pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

To David's examples, I would add that the historic budget deficits of the 1980s and early 1990s, incurred by conservative hero Reagan pushing through tax cuts and large increases in military spending (sound familiar anyone?)


I'm not sure how pointing out that we had large deficits during a period of "divided government" supports the case for "divided government." I would point out that this was also the last time we tried to fix Social Security and thanks to "divided government" all we got was a huge increase in FICA and no PRA's.
11.10.2006 7:23pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Likewise, the Democratic-controlled Congress in the 1970s uncovered the pervasive corruption of Nixon's administration, and forced him from office (a good thing, in my book).


Thanks for the reminder, we forgot to add two more achievements of the "divided government" of the 1970's vis vi the witchunt that brought down Nixon-- losing the Vietnam War by defunding our allies in South Vietnam (thereby showing the world that we were a "paper tiger" so long as they showed enough US casualties on the evening news -- sound familiar?) and the Church Committee's gutting of our intelligence capabilities which prevented them from stopping the 9/11 high-jackers.

So "divided government" can also be attributed to military weakness and making the United States vulnerable to domestic terrorist attacks.
11.10.2006 7:31pm
Nathan Jones (mail):
A. Zarkov

I meant what I wrote. I am "pro-open borders." I believe it should be very easy to immigrate to the United States and become a citizen.

Citizens in EU member states have an easy time (well, easier than the pre-EU days) moving from one to the other. I don't see why that wouldn't be a good idea for NAFTA.

"America" is an ideal. Anyone who accepts that ideal should be able to come here and be American. If you want to come to this country, work hard, pay taxes and not commit crime, then I say "welcome."

I thought this was a libertarian site?
-nj
11.10.2006 7:31pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I offered the idea that we no longer have domestic issues of the gravity of slavery, gold money or the right to organize labor; and Rex countered with this list of woes:

'You mean issues like the disappearing middle class, unaffordable health care, immigration, climate change, oil dependency, nationless terror cells, and performance-enhancing drugs?'

Perhaps I should just let that stand, but, in order:

1. The middle class isn't disappearing. If we got rid of the 12 million illegal immigrants, even the lower class would have middle class incomes.

2. I live in Hawaii, where employers are required to provide health care. The other 49 states ought to look into that. It keeps wages down, but the citizens don't seem to mind and they don't complain about the cost of medical treatment.

3. immigration. See 1

4. Nothing you can do about climate change, it's natural. I'd lay in a stock of fur coats, though. It's gonna get real cold.

5. I love oil. At least, I love it better than mythical alternatives. Besides, Wyoming is full of the stuff. Use that.

6. Nationless terror cells are not a domestic problem. Islam is at war with us. I say we should reciprocate.

7. My wife takes steroids, and they are killing her. If she didn't, she'd have been dead 40 years ago. I love performance-enhancing drugs
11.10.2006 7:34pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> No, but being criticising any plan short of sending 12 million people back home as "amnesty" certainly is.

It would be helpful if Bell told us what definition of "amnesty" he's using.

The rest of us are using "compete or partial forgiveness for past offense". My example was a "tax amnesty".

If someone who broke immigration law gets to stay in the US legally, how is that not "amnesty"?

Or is Bell's objection that he thinks that the "amnesty" label makes it too hard to sell "compete or partial forgiveness for past offense" programs that he likes?

BTW - Since this blog's comments have a disproportionate number of lawyer-readers, I'll offer the following proposal. Give unemployed folks with a legal right to work in the US (green card, citizenship) standing to sue employers who employ folks who don't have a legal right to work in the US. For damages, let's go with some multiple of the salary paid in the last month or so. (No more than two years.)
11.10.2006 7:55pm
DaveyJones:
Earlier today I watched an interesting video blog debate between Matt Yglesias and Dan Drezner that touched on the parliamentary topic. Yglesias was singing the praises of parliamentary systems because of the ability to unify control of the executive and legislative branches, and Drezner pretty effectively quashed that idea. His comments on the benefits of the US form of legislative restraint when negotiating internationally were very interesting, and he also makes some points about the relative ineffectiveness of unified government. Most of this is in the last few minutes of this clip if you don't want to watch it all.

http://bloggingheads.tv/video.php?id=156&cid=722
11.10.2006 8:17pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

The Second Amendment doesn't apply to the states, so they can do whatever they want with respect to firearms.


huh?
11.10.2006 8:35pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Thorley:

you may be correct that not all types of divided government lead to fiscal restraint. I think the form that has worked best in that regard is when the Republicans control the legislature and the Democrats control the White House.

Under Reagan, the divided government led to a compromise that created huge deficits: Reagan got some of his tax cuts, and large increases in military spending, while the Democrats blocked his ability to make drastic cuts in many social programs.

Regarding this quote of yours:


the witchunt that brought down Nixon-- losing the Vietnam War by defunding our allies in South Vietnam (thereby showing the world that we were a "paper tiger" so long as they showed enough US casualties on the evening news -- sound familiar?) and the Church Committee's gutting of our intelligence capabilities which prevented them from stopping the 9/11 high-jackers.


I suggest your are re-writing history. Nixon's tapes, coverup of burglary, obstruction of justice, etc. led to his downfall, and it was well-deserved. Had Nixon stood trial like an accused criminal, the tapes would have convicted him. It is amazing to me how short people's memories are about all of the dastardly deeds that Nixon's administration did, and about how deeply involved in many of them Nixon was.

To cite but one example: appointing someone as Chairman of the SEC (G. Bradford Cook) because he promised to use his influence to kill a SEC investigation of Robert Vesco, which would have embarrassed CREEP. See See State ex rel. Nebraska State Bar Ass'n v. Cook, 232 N.W. 2d 120 (Neb. 1975).

As for your statement about how the Democrats "forced" Nixon to abandon an ally and lose Vietnam, it was already lost, under Johnson. Also, I wonder if Vietnam now is probably better off than it would have been had the corrupt South Vietnam regime stayed in power and at war/truce with North Vietnam.

As for the Church Commission, and 9/11, I must admit I consider more recent intelligence failures, such as Rice's ignoring a memo dated 8/2001 entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Targets in US" to be perhaps more causally related to 9/11 than the Church Commission's decision to expose the CIA's illegal domestic spying on Americans 25 years earlier. I for one don't see the connection between how preventing the CIA from spying on Nixon's "enemies" led to 9/11, but maybe you can enlighten us all on this subject.
11.10.2006 9:01pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Although I am an advocate of divided government, I actually think these next two years will have a greater negative effect on future generations than these past six years of a united government. Bush is quite simply a RINO who has done more to expand big government, spending , entitlements, Wilsoniasm foreign policy ideals, etc. Now, he has a Congress that is even more intent on expanding big government, spending, entitlements, etc., than the GOP in Congress could have dreamed about in their wildest dreams. Unfortunately, future generations will be paying the tab that today's generation will rack up.
David, I don't think it works that way. Don't make the mistake of thinking that policies are supported or opposed in a vacuum. Bush supports big government because he thinks it helps him, and other Republicans, get (re-)elected. Giving legislative victories to a Democratic Congress doesn't help Republicans get elected.
11.10.2006 10:58pm
Lev:

Bush supports big government because he thinks it helps him, and other Republicans, get (re-)elected.


I think that is incorrect. He supports big government because he is a "compassionate conservative." The programs he compassionately wanted and wants, are not the sort that can be provided by other than big government.
11.10.2006 11:43pm
dick thompson (mail):
Christopher Cooke,

If the war was lost under Johnson, then why did Gen Giap admit that after the Tet Offensive the North Vietnamese were ready to give up until they realized that the media were changing the US approach to the war. How do you explain that the South Vietnamese were winning again until the dem congress pulled the funding. If the South Vietnamese were so terrible then why were there so many boat people even willing to drown to get away from the North Vietnamese and why did the North Vietnamese kill so many and have to send them to re-education camps and why are they just now catching up with the rest of the area and that only because they have become entrepreneurial.

It is not nice to rewrite history the way you did. Winston Smith would have outed you for doing that.
11.10.2006 11:54pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):

If the South Vietnamese were so terrible then why were there so many boat people even willing to drown to get away from the North Vietnamese and why did the North Vietnamese kill so many and have to send them to re-education camps and why are they just now catching up with the rest of the area and that only because they have become entrepreneurial.


I did not say that the South Vietnamese were worse than the North Vietnamese. I think they were not as bad. My point only is that the country now, 32 years after the end of the war, is probably better off being united and moving to capitalism, than it would have been being divided, and at each other's throats, with the North under a Stalinist dictatorship and the South under a corrupt military dictatorship. Obviously, many people suffered when the Communists took control one year after the US's pull-out. I frankly doubt that South Vietnam could have held out against North Vietnam, regardless of any funding we gave them and then cut off, because South Vietnam's government did not enjoy the popular support that the North did. But, maybe you are right, the support that North Vietnam received from China was the decisive factor and had we continued comparable financial support to South Vietnam, there would have been a stalemate, as in Korea.
11.11.2006 12:26am
Crunchy Frog:
One thing I've wondered for a while: Holding down a job as an illegal alien is in itself a crime, right? And so is hiring said illegal alien. So, by definition, isn't the transaction a criminal conspiracy subject to the RICO statute? IIRC, the Boise County executive tried this a couple years ago - I don't remember whatever became of it.

Along the same line, since illegal contracts are unenforceable (you can't sue a hitman for breach of contract if he takes your money without killing anyone), then why is it that employers of illegals are held liable if they refuse to pay their illegal workforce? (instead of going to jail for hiring illegals in the first place.)

Also, it's always amusing to see that measures taken to ensure the workforce (or the voting public) is legal are criticised as being racist, as if legal minorities weren't the ones being the most negatively impacted by said fraud...
11.11.2006 12:45am
Lev:

If the war was lost under Johnson, then why did Gen Giap admit that after the Tet Offensive the North Vietnamese were ready to give up until they realized that the media were changing the US approach to the war.


If the war was not lost under Johnson, then why didn't he run for re-election?

The war was lost under Johnson, not because of lack of military success, but because of loss of will in the US.
11.11.2006 12:52am
whit:
"The Second Amendment doesn't apply to the states, so they can do whatever they want with respect to firearms"

what?

um...

it applies to the PEOPLE. just like the 1st, 4th, and 5th
11.11.2006 1:35am
Hans Gruber:
"Hans, the academic research is more rigorous and less biased than that conducted by an anti-immigration think tank."

It's utterly absurd to claim that importing poverty into a welfare state will benefit the state fiscally.

"And immigrants are not entitled to all those programs you reference. They are prohibited (or may be prohibited by states) from participating in Medicaid, social security is limited to social security contributions made with a US SS#, which excludes many, same situation with Medicare, and they are ineligible for most welfare payments."

California's attempt to limit illegal's access to state services was blocked by the courts. So "may be prohibited" is contingent on our robed masters allowing it.

Heard of an anchor baby? Do you know how it that works? Illegals have children born in the US, their US born children are eligible for every one of those programs. Having one legal citizen in the family, the rest of the family may seek legalization under current law. And you really believe those illegals here today, if allowed to stay until their retirement, will be excluded from social security and medicare? You really believe that? Give me a break, Frank.

Also, let's examine your claims and see if it's consistent with the "biased" CIS. You said illegals are net benefit to SS and medicare. So does CIS! But, you see, that's not the whole picture! And it's stupid--yes stupid--to claim that SS is helped but ignore the general fiscal impact. Social Security's solvency is dependent on the solvency of the budget as a whole; and while illegals may helps SS (now) they are a net negative overall, therefore they do not help SS.

It just doesn't pass the smell test that a demographic change favoring the poor, unskilled, and uneducated would increase the fiscal condition of a highly socialized government based on progressive taxation. If you wanted to increase the number of net contributors, it would follow that we should favor those likely to earn double what the current American does, not half.
11.11.2006 2:35am
Hans Gruber:
Whit,

The Second Amendment has not been "incorporated" into the Fourteenth Amendment and is therefore inapplicable against state laws on gun control. Whatever your opinion of the wisdom of that interpretation, it is the law.
11.11.2006 2:41am
whit:
"7. My wife takes steroids, and they are killing her. If she didn't, she'd have been dead 40 years ago. I love performance-enhancing drugs"

AAS or corticosteroids? both are "steroids", but technically speaking - cholesterol is a steroid too.

corticosteroids are detrimental to overall health, but often medically necessary - they are catabolic

anabolic androgenic steroids are not detrimental to overall health (when used responsibly), are prescribed for a number of issues, as well as improving quality of life in the aging population (see: hormone replacement therapy), and are anabolic.

just to clarify.
11.11.2006 9:26am
whit:
Hans, I have never heard that claim before, but that doesn't mean you're not correct.

Frankly, I'd be shocked and saddened if it's true but I can't say it isn't.

I'm just glad to live in a state that clearly defines the right to possess/carry in our state constitution.
11.11.2006 9:29am
Mark Field (mail):

It just doesn't pass the smell test that a demographic change favoring the poor, unskilled, and uneducated would increase the fiscal condition of a highly socialized government based on progressive taxation.


If we're going to ignore actual data and just go by theory, I'm sticking with capitalism -- the theory that free markets in labor, not just goods and capital, benefit everybody.
11.11.2006 10:38am
Peter Wimsey:
It is weird -- to me, anyway -- to contemplate that this result is precisely the one that parliamentary systems cannot ever reach (because by definition the executive and legislative branches must all be in the same hands.

This is not true - look up "coalition government" or examine Germany's electoral history over the past 40 years or so to see how divided government works in a parliamentary system. The transition from the Schmidt government to the Kohl government in 1982 is an excellent example of this in practice.
11.11.2006 11:37am
Harry Eagar (mail):
I'd say 'continuing to breathe' is a performance enhancement.
11.11.2006 12:05pm
Hans Gruber:
Whit, it's true. Read more about incorporation here (haven't examined the page in detail, but it seems to be a good overview).

Mark, I'm not ignoring any data. In fact, I'm the only one here to have provided any. And my point isn't a theory, it's a fact. In the modern socialized economy ,which relies on a progressive tax system, the poor receive more than they pay. More poor people means lowering benefits or raising taxes, ceteris paribus.

Several realities point to 1) restricting immigration and 2) Limiting what legal immigration there is to the educated and skilled. Immigration is necessarily limited by the how many we can meaningfully assimilate. People can disagree about the number, but it's real. Only wacky libertarian Ayn Rand fetishists argue for totally unrestricted immigration. Even Milton Friedman acknowledges that you can't rely on the market when the government is providing additional incentives (to say nothing of assimilation concerns).

The second point must follow from the first if we wish to maximize the economic benefit of the immigrants we do accept. If we can't accept every potential immigrant on the face of the planet, then it makes sense to discriminate against those immigrants that do not provide (or provide less) economic benefit to the US economy in favor of those that do.
11.11.2006 12:33pm
Mark Field (mail):

Mark, I'm not ignoring any data.


Your phrase "doesn't pass the smell test" suggested to me you were leaving the data aside for the moment.


In fact, I'm the only one here to have provided any.


Frank Cross also referenced a study. Independent of yours and his, I've seen several (I live in CA and this stuff comes up a lot). They go both ways; nobody seems able to agree on the actual effect.


In the modern socialized economy ,which relies on a progressive tax system, the poor receive more than they pay.


I hope this is true, but I'm not sure it is. In any case, I'm less sure it's true with undocumented immigrants because they are formally ineligible for many benefits. This just gets us back to the indeterminate studies.


If we can't accept every potential immigrant on the face of the planet, then it makes sense to discriminate against those immigrants that do not provide (or provide less) economic benefit to the US economy in favor of those that do.


Agreed, but I want that discrimination to consider long term as well as short term benefits, and I also want it to consider non-economic benefits as well.
11.11.2006 1:31pm
whit:
"In the modern socialized economy ,which relies on a progressive tax system, the poor receive more than they pay. "

"I hope this is true, but I'm not sure it is. "

really? are u serious. cmon. the lowest income quintile pays little to no taxes. they receive immense amounts of govt. assistance.

AND far more police, fire, and emergency medical service per capita than rich people.

that all costs money.

every police dept. has their classic "frequent fliers" that we respond to.

with very very rare exceptions, they are usually of the lower income variety.

also, since most bottom quintile people pay NO taxes, any govt. benefits they receive make the first statement true.
11.11.2006 2:35pm
Tom R (mail):
> "the one that parliamentary systems cannot ever reach (because by definition the executive and legislative branches must all be in the same hands)"

True only if the legislature is both (a) unicameral and (b) elected by a winner-take-all system, or by some other system that ensures (b.1) a majority for a single party or tight (= pre-election) coalition and (b.2) tight parliamentary party discipline. In other words, true for New Zealand pre-1993; for some Canadian Provinces; for the State of Queensland (Australia); and for (maybe) some Caribbean micro-states.

Not true if you tamper with any of these assumptions. Otherwise the Prime Minister can be defeated on specific legislative proposals by:

(a) an Upper House (even the British Lords rouse themselves from time to time, and if the next election is less than a year away, the Commons can't easily override their Lordships) (caveat though if the Upper House is appointed by the Govt, as in Canada;

(b) minor-party or independent MPs who hold the balance of power in the Lower House (note that the last two changes of govt in UK elections - Callaghan 1979, Major 1997 - were preceded by the govt losing its Commons majority, through defections or by-elections, but soldiering on because the Opposition didn't have a majority either); or

(c) the govt's own MPs crossing the floor (rarer than in the USA, of course, but not unknown: eg, Blair's various defeats on non-binding Iraq War motions by his own parliamentary troops).

The Australian Senate (fixed term like the USA's, and elected by proportional voting within each State) has given most of our recent Prime Ministers a hard time, even those who (like Malcolm Fraser 1976-1981, and John Howard since 2005) had a majority of Senators on paper. Caveat that Fraser and Howard were both right-wing Liberal Party PMs, and the floor-crossing Senators were usually either left-wing ("small-L") Liberals, or National Party coalition allies upset at Liberal plans to cut spending for rural services. Under the 1983-96 Labor Govt, the balance of Senate power was held by the Democrats, a small party who began as centrist but ended up (for various reasons) on Labor's left. I remember a mid-1980s cartoon, when PM Bob Hawke was meeting Reagan, depicting the two of them commisserating about how "negotiating with Democrat Senators" was a pain in the neck.
11.11.2006 3:58pm
Aleks:
The years 60-68 did in fact accomplish some pretty good and important things: notably a lot of civil rights legislation, and Medicare/Medicaid. Much of that was due to LBJ's savvy as a former congressional power-broker knowing just how to crack the whip to get things through. Compare this with the ineptitude of Carter, or even Clinton with healthcare reform.
11.11.2006 8:00pm
Tom R (mail):
> "parliamentary systems like Britain will always have a fairly identifiable leader of the loyal opposition, which does not happen in the American system when the same party controls the presidency and both houses of Congress"

Is it bicameralism that does this, or the fact that the non-Administration party's Congressional floor leaders almost never become President even if their party wins? In UK, eg, if you know the Tories win the next election, you can be pretty sure David Cameron will be the Tory PM. It's 90+ per cent certain, although it's also not unknown for the Opposition to replace its leader shortly before (Bob Hawke, 1983) or even after ("Red Ken" Livingstone Mark I, Greater London Council, 1981) the election.

Example: a few years ago, I could get my students' attention with the factoid that "Of the top two Republican and top two Democrat politicians in the US (Bush, Cheney, and then Daschle and Gephardt), 50% have a lesbian daughter." No longer so. Daschle/ Gephardt quickly became Kerry/ Edwards for the last few months of the quadrennium, and are now Reid/ Pelosi.

A US House Speaker in Pelosi's position, like Newt in 1994, has the leverage against the President to play a "cohabitation" role something like Chirac did with Mitterrand after the Right won France's 1986 parliamentary elections. The Raffarin-ising of Rumsfeld was a small taste. Yet Chirac, like Pompidou before him, used the PM-ship as a springboard to the Presidency. I can't think of any US House Speaker this century who'd give it up to run for PM.

The two US Presidents who attained that office in a way most similar to a British or Canadian or Australian Prime Minister were LBJ and Ford. Both were nominated as VP because they'd been party leader in their chamber, and both became President for the first time (in Ford's case, the only time) without being elected as President (or, in Ford's case, without even being elected as Veep). And LBJ and Ford make one each for House and Senate. You could say that Ford became Chief Exec/ head of govt mainly because, like a British or Canadian or Australian Prime Minister, he was his party's floor leader in the lower house (sort of).
11.12.2006 12:27pm
Tom R (mail):
Oops. Didn't mean to insult His Fordship on this auspicious date.
11.12.2006 8:55pm
Tom R (mail):
> "Both were nominated as VP because they'd been party leader in their chamber"

Hmm, should also correct myself by adding that LBJ had (AFAIK, based on Dallek, IIRC) had a Presidential baton in his satchel for some time before 1964, even before 1960. Whereas GF seemed happy to stay in the House and had no presidential ambitions (that I've ever read about) before he was tapped to replace Spiro Agnew.
11.13.2006 6:20pm
Tom R (mail):
Hello? Anyone still reading this?
11.13.2006 6:21pm
Tom R (mail):
It's not just bicameralism, or even strong bicameralism, but bicameralism so strong that the powers (a) to initiate budget bills and (b) to veto individual Cabinet members -- which in Parliamentary systems are both, by constitutional law and/or convention, unambiguously concentrated in the Lower House -- are, under the US Constitution, split between the House of Representatives and the Senate.


"It may be conjectured, too, that a rigidly bicameral structure of Congress inhibited the development of the most likely alternative to Presidential primacy -- Parliamentary government on the British model. The British House of Lords could be disposed of, both by the material threat of the creation of new peers, and by the moral argument that it had no claim, as an hereditary chamber, to [a] decisive voice in a democracy. The [US] Senate enjoys protection against change in its constituency and numbers even by constitutional amendment [fn 2: Article V], and it not only is an elective body (and always has been that in an indirect sense, even before the Seventeenth Amendment) but has a claim, as the guardian of equality among the States, that sounds deep in our political tradition. Of our two Houses, neither has a unique claim to be the base of Parliamentary government: that many have facilitated the devolution of leadership on[to] the most conspicuously available office outside either. [fn 3: It is believed that this suggestion is somewhere made by Professor Corwin]."

Charles L Black, Jr, Perspectives in Constitutional Law (1963), p 59.


Direct election of Senators, combined with fine-tuned gerrymandering for the House, has helped blunt the criticism that the Senate's non-population-based apportionment makes it obviously less democratic [= responsive to a popular majority] than the House.

As Akhil Amar as argued, the Act making the House of Representatives Speaker third in line to the Presidency (before the Cabinet) certainly violates the unenacted assumptions, and probably even violates the enacted implications, of the Constitution.

If I were ever writing a Constitution for a Presidential system, I'd make it that presidential appointments of political officials only need ratification by one House -- either will do -- but, on the other hand, such officials have to vacate office if both Houses, by absolute majority, pass a vote of no confidence in them. (Judges, of course, are different: they should require ratification by both Houses, perhaps in joint sitting rather than separately, and should only be removable by two-thirds of both Houses).

In other words, "the President can appoint whomever he/she likes to a non-tenured (= dismissible at will) office, as long as there is not in force a resolution, supported by booth Houses, prohibiting the President from appointing that person. Such a resolution must name the person concerned, may be rescinded at any time by either House, and expires every 2 years".

If you really want divided government and bipartisanship, why not simply have a unicameral system but require a two-thirds majority to pass any new law? (And really make things interesting by making all existing Acts subject to a 10-year sunset, except for laws the courts find necessary to implement the Constitution, eg electoral laws?).

Here's one (vaguely Tullockean) response: I suppose a constitutionalised two-thirds majority rule (which you could implement indirectly, eg by fixing the legislature's quorum at two-thirds -- something like Texas -- but removing any power to compel attendance) forces the decision on everyone; just as a unicameral system with a simple majority rule forces one-party government on the voters (unless the politicians agree to operate the system otherwise). Whereas a bicameral system with simple majority rule lets elections decide whether it's one-party rule for the Red team, one-party rule for the Blue team, or divided between both sides.
11.13.2006 7:17pm