Control Balance

“Congressional control by political party is deemed necessary because agendas are set for the day-to-year influence of expenditures at home and the world through the administration of billions in revenue, and trillions in the structure of investment debt.”

Rex L. Curry

The Evidence of Power

Political power is evident in the 98% incumbency rate for the House and Senate, followed by the seniority rule that determines agenda powers through committee leadership by the majority party. The average replacement rate of a member in either party is in the mid-twenties in the House. That known, very little changes in Congress other than the fight to obtain a majority in the Senate where only a third of its members are challenged in six-year cycles and replacement is through death.

Political power is evident in the quality of American life from that of the neighborhood down streets from where you live to every remote military outpost on the earth and in space. America has not known the horror of war on its doorstep, but it has known the death of its children over two world wars, and a nearly countless number of other little wars. The traditional controls used to manage balance are losing the maintenance of ordered power. Following is a brief four-paragraph history of politics over the last decade to illustrate this concern, so don’t let your eyes glaze over. It tells you what makes thieves giddy.

  • Just as the warnings of a Great Recession took hold of the economy in 2008, the Democratic Senate seat number in January 2009 was 55 Democrats plus 2 Independents equaling 57 Senate seats.  (Kennedy D-MA was dying, and Franken’s D-MN election is in a recount delay). During this time, efforts by the Obama Administration (2008 to 2016) to pass a reform package defining the abuses of the FIRE sector and stimulus funding to repair the damage.
  • No Republicans in the House voted for the stimulus, but it passed. However, in the Senate the Democrats didn’t have 60-vote “control” to pass this legislation, three Republicans (Snowe, Collins, and Specter) voted to break a filibuster to move toward passage creating the conditions leading to a strong recovery. Nevertheless, it was in 2009 that close observers began to worry about the quality of governance in our democracy. A plan began to make Obama a one-term President.
  • When Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) recovered from ill health, he returned on July 21, 2009, but even then, Democrats still only had 59 members. Kennedy’s empty seat was temporarily filled by Paul Kirk but not until September 24, 2009, to give Democrats 60 votes (at least potentially) in the Senate. Democrats did have “total control” of Congress, but it lasted all of 4 months, from September 24, 2009, through February 4, 2010.  Control by Democrats ended when Scott Brown, a Republican, was sworn in to replace Kennedy’s Massachusetts seat marking the beginning a Republican takeover of congressional power following the 2012 re-election of Obama.
  • In 2013, the Senate’s two chiefs were Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).  McConnell’s effort to make Obama a one-term presidency failed and a long series of Republican filibusters against his agenda and nominees began along with a sense of unyielding discord. To force the issue, Reid invoked the ”nuclear option” to “get work done.”  For the entire history of the Senate, a two-thirds “super” majority was required to amend the rules or pass legislation. The “nuclear option” allows the Senate to override a rule with a simple majority.  Parliamentary rules are conflict-reducing devices. One of the most critical aspects in the Senate is the belief in the 60-vote rule to close debate or end a filibuster.  The value represented is clear – discussion debate and occasional obstruction achieve consensus and reasonable agreement on the use of power.  The simple majority (51) turned the process into a blunt reduction of conflict instrument and little else. Observers of the process continue to critique the failure to govern.

Though the 2014 midterm election, the Republican majority control of the Senate and the House was complete. The 2016 election also put the Presidency in the Republican wing. Unlike the Democrat’s four months of “total control,” the Republican Party has held “total control” for two years and has conducted its business without opposition until the midterm elections of 2018.

The Republic failure to repeal the laws offering an opportunity to provide health care for all Americans was followed by a massive tax reduction for the wealthiest Americans and two appointments to the Supreme Court. Half of the new law’s tax break for ‘small business’ will go to filers earning over $1 million according to a report for a Senate hearing prepared by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation (HERE).

The facts, on the other hand, are covered-over using the following types of incomplete comparisons in governance via Tweet.  In this context, and on the point of taxation, the flow and purpose of information aimed at the people could not have become more deviant.  For example:

“The Tax Cuts are so large and so meaningful, and yet the Fake News is working overtime to follow the lead of their friends, the defeated Dems, and only demean. This is truly a case where the results will speak for themselves, starting very soon. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!” @realDonaldTrump

The facts are the rate of job growth in the United States has remained the same as it was in the last two years of the Obama administration after reforming banking regulations in trade for chunks of bail-out cash.

Control Balance Desirability

I don’t think this is a strange idea. Life holds a hammer. Take a long look at the social psychology of Congress using the control balance theory. This may help to account for personalized aberrations of congressional and presidential behavior as a ratio related to the seriousness of their actions in group membership. Our 535 members are not the high-minded disinterested purveyors of intelligence, but they do not fail to come to terms with what is happening in their moment when conflict is inevitable.  In this condition, power can only be challenged by power.

The control balance idea was developed by Tittle 1995.  In 1995, the idea of control ratio imbalances theorized the seriousness effect of deviance if it was removed from individuals. His subsequent book,  Tittle 2004,  Major Revision replaced this idea with “control balance desirability” of groups.  If this could explain the types of deviance of powerful actors such as government officials, elected representatives, and agency staff it could light the way to keeping the Republic whole.

Control balance measures the increase in deviance as “control ratios” become imbalanced. The effect of imbalance in control ratios is reflected in other variables such as how irregular motivations relate to constraints on deviant acts. Examples abound under the heading of corruption.

The concept of control ratios applies to chemistry, even architecture.  The ratios occur by dividing one type of flow into another. In the social psychology of government, these flows form in media and can be defined as positive or negative by measures of observers. As a currency for ideas, facts, and opinion the flow may range from the detailed critiques of “think tanks,” to the degrading insults and slurs of the “bot-driven” Facebook and Twitter platforms. The data across the board thereafter exhibits the desirability of control balance as defined by increases or decreases in conflict.

Conflict is inevitable. In the world of words alone conflict is acceptable within the limits agreed to be rational discourse. Deviance is an instrumental behavior often employed to improve the control ratio. The introduction of a theory of “control balance” on the other hand, provides new explanations for deviant behavior of actors with a typology by which different individual acts suggested in the flow of words become categories. These acts will group as either repressive or autonomous actions.  In the context of seriousness (e.g. not joking) each will function in a range that will stretch from serious “working papers” to “twitter feeds.”

Now, look at Congress and center on its perceptions of control via majority. The acquisition of a desirable control balance provides a data flow ratio in the governance entity. It has exact measures of the amount of control exercised relative to the amount of control experienced. Given the impossibility of rational objectivity in social situations, the challenge to accept is to establish a realm of reasonable conflict.

Senate Republican Watch

Andrew Gounardes (D) bested incumbent Marty Golden (R) to become the next Senator for New York’s 22nd District covering Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach, Gravesend and parts of Sheepshead Bay, Borough Park and Midwood.

House Democrats Watch

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can’t afford rent in DC until her salary kicks in.  Her comment on this situation said it all. “There are many little ways in which our electoral system isn’t even designed (nor prepared) for working-class people to lead.”

One of the contradictions for Ocasio-Cortez is the average income for a congressional representative is now over $1 million but the annual salary is under $200,000.


“Until Tuesday, I will be focusing on the existential elections we face, helping to take back the U.S. House of Representatives and the New York State Senate.”

Democrat Mathlyde Frontus won the competitive race for the open 46th Assembly District seat against Republican opponent Steve Saperstein. The district includes Coney Island, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and a portion of Brighton Beach.