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March 04, 2015


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Okay now, Ezra is *really* blase about the consequences of pursestring lock. I also think that he underestimates the degree to which the permanent bureaucracy is empowered, given how a president that muddles along has to re-interpret already passed legal mandates to enjoy her "greater power". Along with the existing issue of the Supreme Court, this has a practical consequence of proliferating veto points. this has a serious aspect in that the vetos are wielded by people who aren't supposed to have that much direct control of policy and who aren't easily held accountable. Think how Timothy Geithner maneuvered during the GFC--using the limitations wrt getting Congressional approval to shape his preferences into policy. And later, the difficulty in actually moving on from Geithner (and now the AG) shows how someone can piss in the tent for quite a while. There is also the failed example of Tom Wheeler's effort to keep the FCC from being very net neutrality.

Ezra is simply too linear and casual in his thinking, and not thinking about how problems snowball. The 2008 wave election might well have saved considerable character of the US. Can you imagine what the GFC would have been like with an anticipated Repub House and Senate, and the immediate aftermath? Yglesias is talking about what happens when things start coiling into a mess, taking for granted Klein's muddle through during normal times. Even just an elementary thinking about what happens if for whatever reason, there must be a rationalization of state accounts (Kansas? Louisiana?) that has to be dealt with at the fed level. If people think that there has to be intervention, it almost definitely means that there has to be immediate action of some sort (loans, etc), which are of a size that Congress has to be involved and effective, or things get *really* pear!

You should read the rest of the series at the category link.

If there's anything I got from reading the whole series and comments in one sitting, it's the disconcerting sense that 2009 is not 2015. I mean, 2009 wasn't that long ago.

I mean, right now, I think the central danger to american power is almost certainly *state* and *local* function. The national government has extensive powers and oversight to collect resources as needed. Back in 2010, Meredith Whitney was going on and on about Municipal Bond Apocalypse. That's passed on, and today, we read about prison overcrowding, hospital closures, horrible tunnel infrastructure doing horribly, and school funds being looted at any pretext. All of that is going to quietly introduce massive frictional impact to the American economy, and contribute to some trade/currency crisis or another (while we worry about robots taking our jobs).


Try this one: http://noelmaurer.typepad.com/aab/2013/10/is-american-democracy-doomed-.html

What scares me about politics are positive feedback loops. There's something bad going on, but the voters have the causality exactly backwards and believe that the cause of the bad thing is the opposite of what it is, so they actually vote for more of the bad thing. It can go on a long time before people catch on, if they ever do.

It seems to happen particularly often with economic and fiscal policy, because that stuff is subtle and counterintuitive. It's really obvious that in a recession the government needs to cut back on spending, and when things are good they can afford to spend more. But that's exactly backwards from what they actually need to do, so it's hard to get policy on the right track.

Divided government is a rich environment for positive feedback loops because there are two opposing parties to blame. I suppose the endpoint is usually one party controlling the government, and then it's harder for them to deflect blame. But even when Republicans controlled everything during the Bush years, it seemed as if they could get mileage out of being "anti-government" even though they ran the whole government. It was as if they were pretending there was nothing but an opposition.

I get that not all of them were from 2009. Was talking about the first ones.

Still not tracking.

We talk past to each other alot, so let me go back to your 5:32 comment. What was it that you thought I was missing when you pointed me to that specific post?

I wasn't sure what you were getting at, so I pointed you to a post that showed that the historical evidence cited by Yglesias isn't very strong. I thought you might be claiming that worries about national politics were no longer relevant, but that didn't make sense. You also seemed to say that 2009 seemed very long ago, politically, but that didn't make sense either. Thus, incomprehension!

Okay, I accept your rejection of Yglesia's point about presidential politics. My point was that the national government *can* muddle along (presidential, parliamentary, whatever), sorta. However, following your discussion about the more historically placed causation of governmental crisis and failure (by coincidence and not inspired by your post), I'm saying that a crisis in the state and local political and economic sphere can metastize and impact the national economy/function.

As far as my first post goes, I'm saying that Klein's narrative is complacent, and I'm saying that the polarity in government can cause a national crisis. That's different than Yglesias talking about the government being replaced, as if you could just reboot governance! Of course, a national crisis could be about both the government structure AND the long-term problems caused by divided government building to the fore, but I'm not really *interested* in the question of whether the government can/will change its rules.

Hopefully that clarifies things...

Now coming to think of it, I suppose that post Napoleonic France has a lot of tips of what rebooting governments is like...

And I forgot to say: I'm not altogether serious when I said 2009 is a century ago!

Just was thinking how my perspective was in 2009 and today, and feeling old.

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