Reagan’s budget director calls GOP tax cuts delusional

In an eye-opening, and at times hard-hitting article in Sunday’s New York Times, President Reagan’s budget director has slammed today’s Republican Party for pushing to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the super-rich.

David Stockman, Regan’s budget director from 1981 to 1985.

Stockman tied today’s ballooning debt and deficits to the GOP’s “embrace, about three decades ago, of the insidious doctrine that deficits don’t matter if they result from tax cuts.”

He says the debt explosion is “not from big spending by the Democrats.”

This bears repeating. The debt explosion is not from big government spending by the Democrats, he says.

Stockman is a fiscally conservative Republican who worked to dismantle the so-called welfare state during his term as Office of Management and Budget director. He was a leading advocate of the pro-big-business “supply-side, trickle down” economic policies that Reagan adopted. Yet now he charges that it’s Republicans who are responsible for the debt explosion with their tax cuts for super-rich.

Stockman, a deficit hawk, called it a “delusion” to say that tax cuts will get the economy to grow and narrow the deficit.

The 1980s, he complains, “hooked Republicans for good on the delusion that the economy will outgrow the deficit if plied with enough tax cuts.”

Stockman got in trouble with his boss, President Reagan, for spilling the beans to reporter William Greider that Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts were “always a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate” – meaning the rate for the richest. As a result, Stockman was forced to resign in 1985.

Stockman says Republicans have done enormous damage to the nation’s economy by increasing trade deficits, by vast war spending, and by the “vast, unproductive expansion of our financial sector” and “the hollowing out of the larger American economy.” But he is no progressive – he also slams “welfare” spending – in other words, vital social safety net programs.

He wants the GOP to go back to days that have vanished forever. But it is eye-popping to hear from a well-known conservative’s point of view some things that progressives and labor activists have been saying for a while. Tax cuts for the rich,  sky high military spending, deregulation and the growing wealth gap are GOP policies that are detrimental to most Americans, and especially working families from Main Street to MLK Boulevard to Cesar Chavez Way.

Significant to this article is the context in which it appears. Republicans are running on a platform of deficit reduction and extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

This from NBC: “This week’s Republican Conference message: Letting the Bush tax cuts expire will actually be tax increases across the board for the public.”

Republican Mark Kirk running for Senate in Illinois (Barack Obama’s former seat) “believes we should permanently repeal the death tax [ known as the estate tax ] … and cut the capital gains tax [part of Bush tax cuts for super rich].”

Tea party idol Sharron Angle, who is running against Harry Reid for the Senate seat in Nevada, wants to make Bush’s tax cuts for the super-rich permanent. Kentucky’s GOP Senate nominee Rand Paul agrees with extending the elite’s tax cuts.

All these Republican “delusions” are cloaked in job-creation rhetoric. During the Bush years – with the tax cuts for the super rich – the United States lost some 750,000 jobs per month.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, calls for extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy elite and for a moratorium on any more federal regulation – even on Wall Street.

Taxes, jobs, deficits and debt are shaping up as the issues of the critical mid-term elections. Republicans continue to run on the platform of taking care of the “have mores” or as Stockman writes, “vulgar Keynesianism robed in the ideological vestments of the prosperous classes.” The possibility that Republicans could take over Congress on such a platform obviously has many concerned beyond the Democrats.

Photo: A Tom Tomorrow/Credo campaign projected on the side of a building at San Francisco’s Green Festival. (Steve Rhodes/CC)



Teresa Albano
Teresa Albano

Teresa Albano was the first woman editor-in-chief of People’s World, 2003-2010, leading the transition from weekly print to daily online publishing and establishing PW’s social media presence. Albano had been a staff writer for People’s World covering political, labor, and social justice issues for more than 25 years. She traveled throughout the U.S. and abroad, including India, Cuba, Angola, Italy, and Paris to cover the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. An award-winning journalist, Albano has been honored for her writing by the International Labor Communications Association, National Federation of Press Women, and Illinois Woman Press Association.