"Mr. President, why have you given up on the country and decided to campaign full-time?"

John Boehner, calling it like it is. At the same time that the president took to the podium to chastise members of Congress for purportedly putting politics before country, the House Speaker expressed his own frustration with the president’s unwillingness to actually negotiate:

“Mr. President, why have you given up on the country and decided to campaign full-time?” Boehner asked at the Washington Ideas Forum, at the same time that the president was holding his own press conference at the White House. …

Working with the president has at times been frustrating, especially in efforts to come up with a “big deal” in budget and deficit negotiations, Boehner said.

“I can tell you I put every ounce of effort that I can to come up with some agreement,” he said. “I could never get the president to the point where he would say yes to real changes in entitlement programs.… It takes two to tango, and the president would never say yes.”

While I’m inclined to take John Boehner’s side in this back-and-forth (it’s evident the president is in prime campaign mode at the moment!), I can’t help but wonder why so many folks see gridlocked government as a problem. Yes, divided government does less. Consider these numbers from Roll Call:

From Jan. 1 to Sept. 30 last year, the House passed 752 measures, while the Senate passed 440. The president signed 115 measures into law.

During the same period this year, the House has passed 247 measures, compared with the Senate’s 265. A mere 35 bills have been signed into law.

But is that so bad? Think of all the unintended consequences of legislation, of the countless programs the government already runs inefficiently. If the lack of legislation over the past year means fewer problems inadvertently created by government and fewer poorly-run government programs, then I’m really not too troubled by it.

It’s one thing if a lack of legislation stems from laziness (e.g. the lack of a budget from the Senate), but it’s another if it stems from the intentional goal of keeping government interference to a minimum or from a divided government that requires Congress to be more thoughtful and acquire broader support for the bills it does pass. Yes, we need targeted legislative solutions to our most pressing problems and, yes, certain functions of government have to be carried out, but why is our immediate solution to every so-called crisis a new law? A reexamination of old laws, the removal of regulatory and other barriers, and increased opportunity to let people do what they do best (a.k.a. innovate) would go a long way toward fixing our current economic and jobs crisis.

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