Monday, August 2, 2010

Deformed Republicanism

A few days ago, I suggested that former members of the Reagan administration were dull and partisan in their public comments. This cannot be said of David Stockman, Reagan's first director of the Office of Managment and Budget, who on Saturday appeared in the New York Times declaiming the "Four Deformations of the Apocaypse".

Stockman, though in many ways a committed ideologue, has never been reliably on message. Early on in Reagan's presidency, he risked his job by talking frankly to the Atlantic about the politically chaotic and murky process of budget cutting, downplaying the administration's legislatvie victories:
"I don't believe too much in the momentum theory any more," he said. "I believe in institutional inertia. Two months of response can't beat fifteen years of political infrastructure. I'm talking about K Street and all of the interest groups in this town, the community of interest groups. We sort of stunned it, but it just went underground for the winter. It will be back ... Can we win? A lot of it depends on events and luck. If we got some bad luck, a flareup in the Middle East, a scandal, it could all fall apart."
Stockman resigned in 1985, frustrated with entrenched political interests and exploding deficits, and declaring the failure of the Reagan Revolution. In his NYT column, which likely outlines the premises of his upcoming book on the financial crisis, Stockman reviews the past forty years of American economic history and castigates the Republican Party for the betrayal of principle in its "recycled Keynesianism" and its submission to the "primordial forces" of the "welfare state and the warfare state". The GOP takes the blame for four destructive changes: removing the gold standard, unleashing defecits, expanding the financial sector, and hollowing out the American economy. Their current political committment to retaining the Bush tax cuts is but a symptom of their irresponsibility and irrelevance. I doubt Stockman weilds much influence in the party any more, but any professed conservative hoping make office and make impact should probably pay attention to his ideas, and certainly make a study of his career.

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