Will Divided Government Result in Gridlock?

That is my hope, but I have to wonder if it really will mean a slowdown in government spending. Over at Cato Stephen Silivinski writes the following,

Despite what Republicans have been saying the past few weeks, the Democratic takeover of the House won’t necessarily be a bad thing for the economy. That’s not because the Democrats have good ideas on economic policy. They don’t. Instead, the benefits will come from the presence of a divided government and its ensuing gridlock. For instance, gridlock usually slows down the rate of growth in federal spending. That will likely lead to a reduction of the size of government as a percentage of GDP, and that’s always a good thing for the economy.

Also, the Democratic takeover of the House will likely not have much of an effect on the Bush tax cuts. The cuts don’t expire until 2010 and, in the meantime, Bush would discover where he stashed his veto pen if a Democratic Congress tries to reverse them. Besides, Democrats won’t have a veto-proof majority in Congress, and many red-state Democrats are not going to be eager to raise taxes anyway. Couple that with the gridlock-related slowdown in the rate of budget growth and you have the ingredients for a better set of fiscal outcomes than supporters of limited- government have seen in six years.

In the past six years President Bush, admittedly with the help of Republicans in Congress, has shown that he is not at all adverse to spending more money and expanding the role of government. As such, I have to wonder if suddenly he is going to get some sort of ideological backbone when it comes to spending proposals put forward by the Democrats. I have to say I’m quite skeptical about it and I don’t think we are going to see the kind of constraint gridlock puts on spending that we saw under Clinton when the Republicans took power in 1994. Hell, back then the Republicans were so adverse to spending increases they in budget showdowns they shut down the government. For some reason I don’t think that Bush will do anything like that.

FILED UNDER: 2006 Election, Congress, Economics and Business, US Politics, , , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. What about the lure of the history books? Could Bush be seduced by the idea of out Reaganing Reagan by becoming a super champion of fiscal restraint, supported by a solid 33.4% of fiscal conservatives in congress?

    Or will he pull a Reagan of agreeing to domestic spending increases in return for the support needed to win the war?

    Both versions of Reagan have their place in the history books and I can see Bush considering both. My gut says he will consider the winning of the war on terror as more important (and thus worth horse trading) than anything else.

  2. Adam Herman says:

    I agree. Bush isn’t likely to veto any spending bills the Democrats send to him.

    On the other hand, if the Democrats do keep their promise to reimpose the spending caps, then that will create better outcomes regardless of how much Democrats wish to spend.

    The main difference right now between Democrats and Republicans is this:

    Republicans are big spenders but don’t think they have a problem.

    Democrats are even bigger spenders, but recognize the problem and are willing to consider measures that will force them to hold spending down.

  3. Kent G. Budge says:

    Since domestic spending is the only thing the Democrats and Bush seem able to agree on, I think it most unlikely that you will get the gridlock you want.

    Hope you didn’t waste your vote on a mistaken belief otherwise.

  4. Christopher says:

    I hope gridlock is what we get. Stop the spending!

    Bush has to see now that playing nice nice with democrats gets you nowhere.

  5. ken says:

    Steve, the insurance industry just called for universal health insurance paid for by the federal and state government. This don’t look like gridlock to me. It looks like America is ready to embrace its inevitable liberal progressive future.


    My suggestion to you is instead of your usual bellyaching why don’t you help figure out the best way to pay for this through taxes. Their plan will cost the federal government about 300 billion dollars. How would you raise that much money?

  6. Bithead says:

    The answer is no.
    We already HAD gridlock… ideological gridlock.
    What we now have is a large majority of leftists, comprised of people in both parties…and leftists running the leadership in both houses. You think we had spending before this? You’ve seen nothing.

  7. just me says:

    I don’t think Bush will find the veto pen.

    For one thing compassionate conservatism isn’t really conservatism.

    I think the only place you see gridlock will be if the GOP in congress puts the kabosh on the spending. Being in the minority, the GOP may actually find their way back to this-but time will tell.

    What concerns me is if the democrats take the WH and the GOP can’t retake the senate (I seriously doubt the house will turn over in two years time, but you never know) then we will end up with the big spenders in all three branches of government.

    While I am a republican, and mostly vote that way, I can honestly say that I think government works better when one party doesn’t control everything. But considering the slate of GOP presidential hopefuls, I am not even sure if any of them can win in ’08. I think at that point, is when you will see the true colors of the liberal wing of the dems emerge. I don’t think the democrats are dumb enough to grasp that agenda other than a few little things like the proposed minimum wage increase or a revisit of the medicare drug bill.

  8. Christopher says:

    “compassionate conservatism isn’t really conservatism” Huh? What?

    Please please please tell me what is more compasionate than conservatism. C’mon, name something. Just one is all, just one. Can’t do it, can ya?

    Read “Atlas Shrugged”. That will give you some insight on what the real meaning of compassionate is.

  9. Herb says:

    The Democrats excel at keeping our government divided and will continue everything possible to keep us divided. The end result will be “Gridlock”.

    It was this gridlock, and the hate campaign that followed, that started right after Gore was defeated and taken note of by OBL. It was the basic reason for 9/11 and we all have the Democrats to thank for it. Should the gridlock continue, and the Dems will surely keep it alive, then we can look for another 9/11 to happen sooner rather than later.

    Don’t think for one minute that OBL and other terrorist groups are not watching our every move and waiting for the right time to strike. With the Dems in power, they will certainly have an easier time with the dismantling of anti terrorist intelligence that the Dems. will destroy, making everyone less secure here at home.

  10. Christopher, the issue isn’t how you or I define compassionate, conservatism, or compassionate conservatism. The issue is that when Bush says it, he’s defining it as Big Friggin’ Government.