THE BLOG
03/16/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Bipartisanship is Overrated

President Barack Obama outsmarted Senator Judd Gregg and the Republicans by shifting the responsibility for the 2010 census from the Commerce Department to the White House. After realizing he would not be able to game the census for the political benefit of the GOP Gregg decided to pull the plug on his outpouring of "bipartisanship" and drop out as Obama's Commerce Secretary. Some corporate media pundits spun Gregg's action as being somehow evidence of an Obama failure. "Why can't Obama keep his cabinet together?" asked Chris Matthews. With "burrowed" Bushite career employees in all the departments and agencies of government and with prominent Republicans mounting a full-court press on Obama's legislative agenda I fail to see why the actions of Judd Gregg have so captured the media's imagination.

And nowhere have I heard any pundit mention the fact that some of the worst policies the United States government has enacted over the past forty years have been "bipartisan."

For example:

On August 10, 1964, Congress passed by a vote of 416 to 0 in the House and 88 to 2 in the Senate the "Gulf of Tonkin Resolution." It was a stunning show of "bipartisanship" giving President Lyndon Johnson carte blanche to take the country to war in Vietnam. The war cost the nation about $900 billion and after it was over the only thing the U.S. had to show for it was fifty-eight thousand dead Americans, over two million dead Vietnamese, and a bitterly divided and polarized nation.

On October 15, 1982, President Ronald Reagan signed into law a bill that lifted most of the restrictions on the savings-and-loan industry. "All in all," the president said, "I think we hit the jackpot." The bipartisan bill allowed thrifts to jump into huge, high-risk real estate ventures and to compete with money market funds. Bolstered by federal guarantees they were now "too big to fail" and the ensuing corruption and criminality was so widespread that George W. Bush's younger brother, Neil Bush, and Arizona Senator John McCain were caught up in scandals relating to failed S & Ls. It was another "bipartisan" disaster that cost American taxpayers $160 billion.

On November 12, 1999, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act. This ingenious piece of "bipartisan" legislation that Wall Street spent millions on lobbying to get passed and Larry Summers and Robert Rubin supported, dismantled much of the New Deal regulatory apparatus that separated the FDIC-insured commercial bank deposits from the more risk-taking investment banks. It created a new consolidated system of "financial services" where brokerage firms, insurance companies, banks and other forms of organization of capital intermingled at will. This "bipartisan" deregulation scheme ultimately brought down the nation's financial system after the unregulated derivatives and mortgage-backed securities markets collapsed under the weight of fraud, abuse, corruption, and general recklessness.

On June 7, 2001, President George W. Bush signed into law the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001. This "bipartisan" legislation quickly drained $1.6 trillion from the federal treasury and bestowed the biggest benefits on the wealthiest Americans and corporations. It turned a budget surplus into budget deficits as far as the eye can see and was the opening salvo of one of the most fiscally destructive periods in American history.

On October 10, 2002, the House of Representatives in a show of "bipartisanship" voted 296 to 133 to pass the Authorization for the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq, and the Senate followed with its own "bipartisan" vote of 77 to 23. Demonstrating their "bipartisanship" by voting for the measure was Joe Biden, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, and John Edwards. This act has resulted in the deaths of at least 150,000 Iraqi civilians and 4,300 Americans. It has cost American taxpayers about $850 billion so far and our leaders thought it wise to throw all the costs of the war onto the national debt. This illegal war and occupation has "won" nothing for the United States other than the opprobrium of the world and a severely weakened the military.

All told, these "bipartisan" wars and twisted economic schemes have so far cost the nation at least $5.2 trillion. So forgive me if I don't get excited when I hear the word "bipartisan" thrown around as if it possesses some kind of magic value. And I'm not too concerned about Judd Gregg's decision to pick up his marbles are go home.