A rare triumph of American bipartisanship

0

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks alongside Vice President Kamala Harris on the bipartisan Senate Infrastructure Agreement at the White House, Washington, DC, United States, June 24, 2021. / PFC

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks alongside Vice President Kamala Harris on the bipartisan Senate Infrastructure Agreement at the White House, Washington, DC, United States, June 24, 2021. / PFC

Editor’s Note: Koichi Hamada, professor emeritus at Yale University, was a special advisor to former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The article reflects the views of the author, and not necessarily those of CGTN.

After months of negotiations, the US Senate recently passed a $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill. Passed by 69 votes to 30, it was an impressive display of bipartisanship at a time of deep polarization. While there are still challenges ahead – in particular, the disagreement over the $ 3.5 trillion budget proposal that was later passed by the House of Representatives on a biased basis – the approval of the Bill on infrastructure provides a useful case study of what makes bipartite agreements possible.

The United States has a long history of bipartisanship, from the Grand Compromis of 1787 to the Great Society initiative of Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. As the late Senator John McCain proved in 2017, when he championed affordable care. Acting on the efforts of fellow Republicans to repeal it, even one or two defectors from a party can be transformative.

But such defections are hard to find in a deeply bipartisan system in which the two parties sometimes seem to live in a different reality (as is the case with climate change or electoral fraud). In such a context, crossing the party line can be seen as treason, threatening the position of transgressors within the party and harming their chances of re-election.

A cornerstone of modern political science is that political actors behave rationally. Simply put, people will not take, join or support any action that would undermine their own well-being. In view of this, a policy can only gain bipartisan support if it simultaneously advances the interests of both parties.

So what do the two main American parties want? Republicans tend to compete unbridled, in the hopes that the markets will naturally reward people the way they deserve and deliver people the way they need. Democrats argue that public intervention is crucial to correcting imbalances and protecting the underprivileged.

Investing in public infrastructure is therefore a more natural cause for Democrats. But while Republicans might not like the idea of ​​large-scale public investment in general – they prefer tax cuts to increased spending, and would prefer lower social spending – they acknowledge that the private sector depends on public infrastructure, roads and bridges to internet service. . They might not like rights, but they want the economy to work – and their constituents to keep voting for them. It means meeting some basic needs.

A construction project to add three lanes to the I-95 Rappahannock River Crossing in Fredericksburg, Virginia, United States, April 6, 2021. / Getty

A construction project to add three lanes to the I-95 Rappahannock River Crossing in Fredericksburg, Virginia, United States, April 6, 2021. / Getty

It’s a way for leaders to achieve what political scientist John Conybeare has called “leadership surplus”. After competing with other potential rulers for ascendancy, they “maximize their surplus or profit by providing public goods against taxes, donations or purchases promised in the electoral process.”

Another way to build up excess leadership and pass widely beneficial legislation is to find areas of common interest and show the other party how their priorities overlap. Additionally, leaders must maintain bipartisan membership while negotiating the details. For example, even if both sides see the need for a modern and functioning physical infrastructure, progress can be hampered by disagreement on how to pay for it.

Republicans, at least when they are out of power, are expressing concern about the growing budget deficit, which would ostensibly increase the tax burden on future generations. But this introduces an ideological constraint that has little merit: Standard economic theory maintains that the well-being of future generations depends on all the national resources left to them, and not on their resources minus their fiscal obligations.

Of course, modern monetary theory would go one step further, stating that a country like the United States can accumulate virtually unlimited amounts of debt. Of course, this remains controversial – and certainly unconvincing for American Republicans. But the standard view is enough to demonstrate that investing in resources such as infrastructure will enhance long-term well-being, regardless of the size of public debt. It is the politician’s job to argue for ideological opponents in the language most convincing to them.

There are also other ways to get bipartisan support for a policy or a bill. Consider what is known as the pig barrel policy: the practice of slipping a localized project into a budget, in order to get a vote from a particular legislator. This is often seen as an abuse of the political system, not least because such provisions might have little to do with the legislation to which they are attached.

But, while handing out pork can certainly be a waste, it can also be a practical tool to enable progress in the provision of public goods. Rather than categorically condemning the practice, we should ask ourselves whether the advantages of the main legislation are sufficient to justify the added provisions. You could describe it as political leadership on the ground.

In an ideal world, such arrangements may not be necessary. But there is nothing ideal about American politics, as years of congressional paralysis clearly demonstrate. The bipartisan vote for the infrastructure bill in the United States is therefore to be welcomed. Hopefully, this will remind both sides that, as controversial as the political climate is, common ground can be a rewarding place.

Copyright: Project union, 2021.

(If you would like to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at [email protected])


Source link

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.