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Govt immobilism not bad, but not likely next year in LA

One review of the recently completed regular session of the Louisiana Legislature ponders the part increased partisan behavior in the chambers played, and will play in the future, in legislating. The author muses that the “all-or-nothing approach portends a new era of hard-core divisiveness along party lines that Republicans seem to want, perhaps anticipating a GOP takeover of at least the House of Representatives and, very likely, the Governor's Mansion. But what happens to [likely top job winner] Gov. [Bobby] Jindal when the Democrats, who next year will likely hold a lot more House seats than the GOP currently holds, decide to respond in kind?”

This statement ignores a couple of important considerations. First, it doesn’t seem to acknowledge that there were very valid and important reasons why House Republicans did what they could, which turned out not to be much, to slow down the ill-advised budget-making going on by state Democrats. Little was done in reversing the state government’s decades-old disastrous affair with populism and liberalism and one has to give the GOP credit for standing up at least and registering significant, if ineffective, opposition. To sit idly by and watch an accident that can be prevented is a disservice to your constituents and the state, and even a shirking of moral duty, and if it takes a partisan, conflictual approach to prevent it, this is to be applauded.

Unfortunately, many commentators and, worse, politicians in this state don’t have a genuine understanding of the theory behind the republican, tri-partite system of significant separation of powers that is the model for the federal and state governments in the U.S. It is designed to be largely immobilized when lack of consensus exists, under the notion that possessing sufficient majorities to get things done shows that a majority of interests feels it has protected it members enough from government power against their interests. Roughly speaking (and only roughly because we know this is not always true), if enough people think it’s the right thing to do, it probably is, and thus in our system of government it gets done.

Further, these unfortunates then lament the times when government isn’t “doing” things, failing to understand that failure to make policy in certain areas is a sign of the polity’s health, that the lack of necessary consensus around a policy area is a warning sign that something risky that could injure a significant portion of the polity may occur. So if the Legislature grinds to a halt with a Republican House, Democrat Senate, and GOP governor, fine, because the path its been going on has not been a salutary one in any event and doing nothing is better than continuing on it.

But, and secondly, it’s not likely to come to this. Consider that, as weak of a governor as Kathleen Blanco was, she still managed considerable success with her generally overall harmful budget priorities by using the powers formal and informal of her office. Now envision Jindal in her position, swept, as all indicators seem to point, into office with a massive mandate, pulling with him a GOP House majority and a couple of pickups in the Senate, and imagine what he will be able to do.

While a putative GOP majority in the House will be slender, and the Senate still firmly in Democrat hands, do not forget that the governor’s major power hits far closer to home to the populist liberals that will almost exclusively comprise Democrats than it does the reformer conservatives that will make up the vast majority of Republicans: the ability to control spending. While Republicans are not averse to throwing some money around, their fundamentally different ideological view that government is to redistribute the people’s resources only in the last resort gives a governor reduced leverage of threat to use vetoes to control their behavior.

However, the entire worldview of Democrats rests on government getting as much of the people’s resources as possible and then redistributing it to their favorite groups and causes. This gives the governor’s decisions on spending much more prominence in their political worlds. And it’s a safe bet that Jindal will not hesitate at all in the use of this power to make enough Democrat opponents knuckle under, at least in his first session.

By its nature, government has the potential to do far more harm than good so a stalemated government is not at all undesirable. Yet given current political trends this is unlikely to occur next year in any event in Louisiana.

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