We should learn to love gridlock in Washington


Congress will soon be on its lengthy summer vacation, and President Obama isn't far behind. In coming weeks, we will hear pundits say with the many crises our nation is facing, this is no time to empty Washington D.C. Politicians should stay at their posts, we hear, until they do something.

That's exactly the wrong sentiment.

Gridlock is good and away from the office might just be the best place for a politician, in most cases.

One of the biggest problems we face as a nation is arguably created by hyperactive government. The problem is a stubbornly high unemployment rate. While East Texas is enjoying great employment numbers, much of the rest of the country isn't so lucky.

"U.S. job growth slowed in June, and Americans left the labor force in droves, tempering expectations for a September interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve," Reuters reports.

Why? Because businesses still are leery of hiring, not knowing what the federal government is going to do next. Will it raise the minimum wage? Will it mandate more benefits, such as overtime and leave? These are important factors in hiring decisions, so, of course, employers are holding back.

And that has an effect on job seekers. They get discouraged. When they stop looking for work, they fall off the rolls of the unemployed. This is shown in what's called the labor force participation rate. And it's distressingly low.

"The labor force participation rate fell to 62.6 percent, the lowest since October 1977, from a four-month high of 62.9 percent in May," Reuters reports.

And that's directly attributable to employer uncertainty.

Now, the real point here is that when the former swampland that makes up D.C. is drained of politicians, we're really better off. Gridlock, in fact, is good.

That's something Justice Antonin Scalia likes to emphasize.

"I hear Americans saying this nowadays, and there's a lot of it going around," Scalia told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2011. "They talk about a dysfunctional government because there's disagreement ... and the Framers would have said, ‘Yes! That's exactly the way we set it up. We wanted this to be power contradicting power, because the main ill besetting us ... is an excess of legislation.' ... This is 1787; he didn't know what an excess of legislation was."

In fact, Scalia said we should learn to love gridlock.

"Unless Americans can appreciate that and learn to love the separation of powers, which means learning to love the gridlock which the Framers believed would be the main protector of minorities, (we lose) the main protection," he said. "If a bill is about to pass that really comes down hard on some minority (and) they think it's terribly unfair, it doesn't take much to throw a monkey wrench into this complex system. Americans should appreciate that; they should learn to love the gridlock. It's there so the legislation that does get out is good legislation."

So let's not begrudge Congress and the president their vacation time. We need the break.

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