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October 25, 2004
IS GRIDLOCK THE ANSWER TO REDUCING DOMESTIC SPENDING? There are a fairish number of people who are steeling themselves to vote for Kerry in the hope that gridlock will hold down government spending. I've investigated this myself, as I mulled my vote, and found that, just as conservatives have been claiming, the spending slowdown of the Clinton years seems to have been less a product of gridlock (or Clinton's much-overhyped committment to deficit reduction) than of Newt Gingrich and the post-Cold-war peace dividend. After the Republicans got their hats handed to them in the '98 midterms, everyone seems to have decided that the secret to popularity was to spend! spend! spend! -- by Clinton's last budget, domestic discretionary spending (which, other than defense spending, is the only thing the president or the congress has much control over year to year) was growing at 5% per-annum. So I was very sceptical that a Kerry presidency would mean, as some of my friends and correspondants have tried to convince me, a return to fiscal rectitude.
Now The Economist confirms my worries, with an elegantly written article on what we can really expect from gridlock.