Politicians like to talk about “unity” and “co-operation” and “getting things done.”
This would be all well and good if, when they manage to co-operate, they could restrain themselves from going whole hog and radically increasing government spending.
But the evidence is: They can’t.
Politicians in Washington are most co-operative and least “obstructionist” when the legislative and executive branches are united by party — that is, the majority’s in Congress is the same as the president’s. But look what happens when there’s united government under one party: Government growth.
A graph compiled by Mercatus Center research fellow Matthew Mitchell makes this easy to see:
Since Eisenhower, the federal government has grown every administration, every year. But the rate of growth is highest when government is united by party. It tends to grow less when there’s divided government. The rate of growth? 2.55 percent with divided government, and nearly double that — 4.67 percent — with united government.
If you look at the graph carefully, you can see there are anomalous developments and periods. And you can see that some famous (Reagan, Clinton-era) attempts at pruning spending hasn’t amounted to a reduction in total spending, yet. But still, the graph is a bit comforting, when you realize that we have divided government now, after a period of united government and massive spending increases.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.