nothing else, the election confirmed Ralph Naders
Tweedledee and Tweedledum thesis. The American people were
simply unable to tell Al Gore and George W. Bush apart.
But deadlock is all to the good. Ideally, the two will continue
disputing for months who won the popular vote and the Electoral
College vote. With the presidency reduced to a Punch and
Judy spectacle before the eyes of the world, the U.S. government
will be too embarrassed to bomb anyone, let alone interfere
in other countries elections. Moreover, with Congress
deadlocked between the two parties, laws suppressing civil
liberties will not pass.
was good news from Utah, too. Voters there overwhelmingly
approved an initiative restricting law enforcement agencies
handling of seized assets. Police departments use forfeiture
proceeds to fatten their budgets. Henceforth, in Utah all
seized property is to be turned over to the state treasurers
office and property owners will have state-paid attorneys
to represent them in their fight to recover their assets.
pundits are predictably lamenting the lack of a "mandate."
"Were in for a tremendously difficult period,"
moans Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution. David Broder
was also morose. In The Washington Post, he
declared: "It was as if two different nations went
to vote yesterday
splitting their votes between Republicans
and Democrats so evenly that the government of their one
country, the most powerful nation in the world, hung in
the evidence for this deep divide is as flimsy as the evidence
for the "gridlock." According to exit polls, 30
percent of Americans thought that the "top priority
for the new president" should be education. By a majority
of 58 to 37 percent they preferred Gore to Bush. Twenty-three
percent thought the "top priority" should be Social
Security. By a majority of 58 to 40 percent they preferred
Gore to Bush. Eleven percent thought the "top priority"
should be prescription drugs. By a majority of 56 to 39
they preferred Gore to Bush. Only 26 percent thought the
"top priority" should be a tax cut. By a majority
of 71 to 27 percent they preferred Bush to Gore.
other words, a majority of Americans like the idea of government
solutions this is, after all, what Gore promised. Yet
by a majority of 53 to 43 percent, respondents insisted
that they preferred less, rather than more, government.
Broder and others refer to as "gridlock" was nothing
of the sort. In reality it was an era of happy cooperation
between Congress and the White House to squander large sums
of money on pork-barrel projects and corporate welfare,
in the fond belief that the U.S. budget will forever be
surplus," incidentally, is a misnomer. The national
debt keeps rising every year. Under the budget resolution
approved by Congress in April, total federal nondefense
spending was estimated to grow in real terms by $33 billion
or 11 percent from 1999 to 2001. According
to the Cato Institute, the Republican Congress "has
violated its own spending caps virtually every
year. Comparison of actual spending from 1996 to 2000 with
the original expenditure targets set in 1995 reveals that
excess spending over the baseline totals $187 billion. Even
after the budget caps were renegotiated upward in 1997,
Congress still managed to exceed the revised budget cap
for the following years by a total of more than $40 billion."
this year, Congress passed the FY2000 supplemental appropriations
package. This was filled with inane projects all worked
out happily with the Clinton administration in the supposedly
"gridlocked" Washington such as the $1.3
billion to fund military operations in Colombia, allegedly
to fight drug trafficking. Included also was $2 billion
to pay for the U.S. involvement in Kosovo, plus funding
for a new building to house the Food and Drug Administration,
as well as money for the manned space-flight program.
before the election, Washington went crazy, with Congress
determined to spend as much as possible in as short a time
as possible. Politicians, Democrat and Republican, happily
added bridges, dams and highways to the omnibus spending
bill. They also like to add so-called "riders,"
which would absolve businesses from environmental regulation.
The Senate Appropriations Committee added $4.4 billion to
a House-passed bill funding veterans, housing and environmental
programs. Then the House and Senate negotiators added an
extra $3 billion to next years appropriation for the
Interior Dept. The two houses added another $2 billion to
the annual bill funding water projects and the Dept. of
Energy. That pushed it about $800 million over Clintons
request. The Senate bill for veterans, housing and the environment
was filled with pork-barrel local development projects.
They cost about $121 million. It also included 54 environmental
projects that cost $63 million and 17 science research projects
that cost $24 million.
to a long and protracted squabble. Perhaps we might then
see the dawn of a true "gridlock" era.