Choose Your NYT Pundit

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.