Divided government will doom the economy

But the 2020 electoral outcome—Democratic White House, Republican Senate—was the worst one in terms of getting anything done in the Capitol, and is thus a pending disaster for the country’s sick, unemployed, and poor. A Trump win likely would have eased the passage of a small but important stimulus. A Biden blowout would have allowed Democrats to pass something huge. Instead, Washington has that old 2011 feeling again.

A decade ago, the world learned what a Democratic White House and a Congress under partial Republican control could do together: nothing, or very close to it. At the time, the economy was slouching out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. The $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed in the early days of the Obama administration, had shored up state and local finances, expanded unemployment insurance, and aided failing businesses. But it was too small by roughly half, economists estimate. With Republicans in control of the House as of 2010 and with a filibustering minority in the Senate until they won it outright in 2014, they crushed every attempt to rectify the problem.

No American Jobs Act. No cloture on even noncontroversial bills. The point was to damage the Democrats’ electoral chances, more than anything else. And the tactic worked, arguably. But it also slowed the recovery down. The United States took 10 long years to return the unemployment rate back to its prerecession low.

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