26 October 2012

Once More with Feeling - Against Bi-Partisanship

It has been six months or so since the last installment in my ongoing argument against bi-partisanship. Today at The New York Times, economist Simon Johnson published this essay highlighting one of the major problems with bipartisanship - it often represents little more than a consensus among self-interested parties aimed at rationalizing crappy policies like, say, the deregulation of the finance sector which set the stage for our current depression. As he points out:
Financial deregulation in the 1980s and 1990s was pushed by both Democrats and Republicans. It reached its apogee when Alan Greenspan, a Republican, was chairman of the Federal Reserve and Robert Rubin, a Democrat, was Treasury secretary. Bill Clinton was president; Newt Gingrich was speaker of the House.
I am not sure whether Johnson would characterize the ongoing economic crisis a depression. It doesn't mater, really. I am simply following those - from Dick Posner on the right to Paul Krugman on the left - who do so. There is no need to trade in euphemisms.

Johnson's whole column is worth reading. It is really a dissection of an initiative being peddled by the Bipartisan Policy Center. Two points  are worth noting. The first is that the former president of the University of Rochester, Tom Jackson is on the board that generated the initiative the Johnson finds suspect. I teach at Rochester. And Johnson rightly points out that Jackson is an independent, accomplished scholar. He simply laments the fact that, unlike Jackson, most of the committee that drafted the initiative were on the payroll (figuratively, at least) of big finance outfits. The second is that Johnson suggests that the Center might offset some of this finance friendly tilt by appointing members of Occupy the SEC to their committee! This at first seemed to me to be a capital idea (pun intended). I have sung the praises of Occupy the SEC here several times. So, on second thought, I would hate to have them peddling bi-partisanship too!

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