In their latest Bloggingheads, Mark Schmitt and Megan McArdle bat around unemployment, lobbyist influence, and political gridlock over health care reform. Schmitt is the executive editor of The American Prospect, the proudly liberal political monthly; McArdle is the business and economics editor of The Atlantic, with admirers on both the left and the right. Their conversation is relaxed, amiable, and heavy with ideas.
Early on, the two pundits consider the political culture of New York state, which has lately seen a remarkable concatenation of Democratic scandals. Is this because New York is a hotbed of vice and venality? Not in McArdle's view. She notes that governments in urban areas and large states generally tend to have more corruption. She also observes that the New York Democratic machine isn't as well oiled as it was when, say, Charlie Rangel began his career. Maybe what we're seeing is less a wave of misconduct than the same old things spun less skillfully.
Schmitt seems to go along with many of McArdle's points, but they do lock horns here:
McArdle: I think part of the reason, probably, that we're getting so many Democratic scandals right now is just that whatever party is in power gets subjected to a higher level of scrutiny. Right? Like, it's way more interesting to take down the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee than it is to take down the ranking Republican member. Or vice versa, when the roles are reversed.
Schmitt: Right. However, let's say--let's point out that for much of the period of Republican control, there was not actually any kind of functioning ethics committee or anything else. So there wasn't even a way to take down people. Now there's, you know, now there's a system that's kind of working the way it's supposed to be, and it is scrutinizing, you know, Democratic members in a way that it was not able to scrutinize Republican members until the very end of that period.
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