Conservatives & Bad Governance
I’ve written about the problem of conservatives in power wrecking government—for the sake of proving their beliefs that government is bad and ineffective/inefficient—here.NPR reports that Obama has an unprecedented winning streak in Congress, which is true. One thing Obama most definitely does not have a good winning streak is in the nominations process. There are over one hundred nominations being held up and some of them are of vital importance.
The obstructionism of this scale has never been seen before in the history of our nation and it seems that obstruction will become the norm for many years to come if our legislative system is not reformed. I go back to what Thomas Frank said in an interview with Bill Moyers:
And they look at someone like Barack Obama and it makes them seethe. Because that’s, you know, that’s what he’s trying to do. What conservatism in this country is about is government failure. Conservatives talk about government failure all the time, constantly. And conservatives, when they’re in power deliver government failure.
Frank continues to say that the way conservatives run government is not simply due to incompetence but also from design:
Not always from design, but often. The Department of Labor, for example, the conservatives when they in office, routinely stuff the Department of Labor full of ideological cranks. And people that don’t believe in the mission… And the result is that it doesn’t– they don’t enforce anything.
But what about when conservatives are out of power? The Democrats control both houses of Congress and the Executive branch. The truth is, however, due to Senate rules, the Democrats are nearly powerless in several key aspects—namely the nomination process. I don’t fault Republicans for not voting against their beliefs or desires but it’s not necessarily Republicans who are broken (although I disagree with them and their tactics): the system itself is broken.
Consider Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner who is unloved by both Republicans and Democrats for the very unpopular way he handled things during the recent financial crisis. People have been calling for Geithner to be fired but as Ezra Klein notes, Obama doesn’t have that option:
But he can’t be fired, and it’s not because he’s doing a bang-up job. It’s because Obama can’t be confident that he could be smoothly replaced. The only thing worse than an unpopular Treasury secretary is no Treasury secretary at all.
The problem gets worse as it goes deeper. It’s not just that Geithner can’t be fired. It’s that he, in turn, can’t fire anybody. Treasury is understaffed, and there’s little reason to believe that the Senate will consider its nominees anytime soon. If Geithner is displeased with the performance of an appointed subordinate, he can’t ponder whether America would be better off with another individual in that office. Instead, he must decide whether America would be better off if that office were empty.
What Republicans have decided to do, as a bloc, is continue their policy by design of government inefficiency. The worst part is they are doing this during a Democratic Party controlled government for the purpose of regaining control of government. It seems they might as well stay out of power since they’re getting what they want anyway: government inefficiency.
Then we have people like Rush Limbaugh who hope Obama fails and is thankful for “God every day that [Obama’s agenda] is going down the tubes.” This simply goes to prove that conservatives want government to fail therefore, by design, they make it happen—even if they’re out of power.