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David Brooks today argues that the (probably) impending "divided government" can be a plus for the country and for policy, as Obama is forced to newly woo independents, the parties need to work together, and so on.

Paul Krugman today says, No, "This is going to be terrible."

By nature I'm optimistic and meliorist, like Brooks; and Krugman, in my view, is much surer in tone when writing about economics than about politics. But on this one I am 100 percent in Krugman's camp. As he summarizes:

>>[F]uture historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness....

If [House Republicans] get their way, we'll get the worst of both worlds: They'll refuse to do anything to boost the economy now, claiming to be worried about the deficit, while simultaneously increasing long-run deficits with irresponsible tax cuts -- cuts they have already announced won't have to be offset with spending cuts. <<

Everything I've seen about the evolution, and devolution, of American politics, and everything I've observed about the fundamentals of American economic strength over the decades, makes me share those fears. When a party is willing to hamstring the country's overall prospects, as "collateral damage" in its effort to weaken the other party, the results are bad for everybody. To choose one example, about which I have more to say in an upcoming magazine article: Everybody knows that "green tech" / "clean tech" businesses of many descriptions are going to be a future source of jobs, wealth, influence, and growth. The Chinese government, as we've read so often, is putting a lot of money behind them -- and will keep doing so over the next decade. The U.S. government has started making such investments in the past couple of years -- but these will surely become hostage to "divided government," since stopping them will be a way of "stopping Obama." And what will really be stopped is America's future share of such jobs, wealth, influence, and growth, since you can't develop these projects through short-term, stop-start spending. Sigh. Rather, Grrrrrr.

 Krugman rightly emphasizes a quote from a recent National Journal interview (by Major Garrett), with the Republicans' leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, on his party's vision: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Great. This may be a tough time ahead, for America and for the "America can always bounce back" team to which I generally belong.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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