Officially, much of the federal public administration suffered a shutdown last month. In important aspects, however, it was paralyzed almost two years earlier, when Donald Trump was sworn in as president. In the end, politicians are supposed to try to get a charge to do things, to tackle real problems and apply solutions. But neither Trump, who wastes his energy inventing crises on the border, nor the Republicans who controlled Congress for two years have done any of that. Its only major legislative achievement has been a fiscal cut that has triggered the deficit without, as far as is known, anything that improves the prospects for long-term growth of the economy.
On the other hand, there are no signs of the infrastructure plan that Trump promised to undertake. And after many years denouncing Obamacare and promising to provide a much better substitute, it turns out that Republicans have no idea how to do it and, in particular, they have no plan to protect Americans with previous conditions.
Why are they unable to govern the Republicans? It is not only that his party professes an ideology that affirms that the Government is always the problem, never the solution. It is also that they have systematically been deprived of the ability to analyze policies and learn from the evidence, because a deep reflection could lead someone to question the doctrine received. And the Republicans are still controlling the Senate and the White House. So when the public administration closes (if it ends), it will take at least two years to have a government in Washington truly capable of governing, or even interested in doing so. But not everything is paralyzed. Because the United States has a federal system, and the 2018 elections have paved the way for a wave of real governance – of real efforts to solve real problems – at the state and local levels.
Until recently, Republicans they had imposed a virtual closure of the public administrations state. Almost half of the population lived in states with republican "trifecta", that is, control of both houses and Republican governor. The Democrats had comparable control in California, and practically nowhere else.
But the elections have transformed the panorama. New Jersey and Washington became fully Democratic in 2017, and six other states, such as New York, did so in November. At this time, more than a third of Americans live under full Democratic control.
These newly empowered majorities are rapidly taking steps to start governing again. And the experience of the states that have already had "trifecta" Democrats suggests that they could achieve many things.
Think of the experience of California, where the Democrats took full control in 2011. The Conservatives attacked the tax, expense and minimum wage increases established by Jerry Brown and declared that the State was committing economic suicide. The fact is that the economy experienced an expansion, while the enthusiastic application in the State of health reform reduced the percentage of the uninsured population from 18% in 2011 to only 7% in 2017, a reduction that almost doubles that of the total of the United States.
Or look at New Jersey, where the Democrats took over last year and have used it to implement a series of measures – such as replacing the requirement that citizens purchase health insurance – that reversed many of the Government's efforts Trump for sabotaging healing. The result has been a drastic fall in health premiums, which are now among the lowest in the country.
Now that the Democratic control has spread, we can expect to see more activism of this kind.
Gavin Newsom, the new governor of California, has proposed additional measures in the field of health, including the mandatory health insurance throughout the State as New Jersey has done and an increase in subsidies to the middle classes. The governor of Washington proposes to create a public option, a state insurance to which residents can affiliate. And the mayor of New York proposes measures that, he says, will guarantee coverage to all New Yorkers, including illegal immigrants.
And healing is not the only front for new actions. Newsom, for example, also proposes a significant increase in spending on education and accessibility of housing. The latter is very important: the huge rise in real estate prices is one of the biggest problems of an otherwise incredibly prosperous California.
Now, let's be clear: not all of the new political proposals of the Democrats will really be put into practice, and not all of those that come into force will fulfill the expectations. Perfection does not exist, neither in politics nor in life, and if leaders never experience failures and setbacks it is that they do not assume enough risks. The important thing, however, is that the state and local politicians who have just come to power seem willing to take risks and try new things in an effort to make progress in the face of the country's problems. And that is a very hopeful signal for the United States, because its example can be contagious.
As is well known, Judge Louis Brandeis described the States as the laboratories of democracy; Right now they are the places where we see what happens when the elected authorities try to do what they chose for them, and they actually govern. If we are lucky, it is possible that within two years that attitude will be restored in the capital of the country.
Paul Krugman He is Nobel Laureate in Economics. © The New York Times, 2018. Translation of News Clips.