Stockman: Was It Reagan’s Fault?

April 5th, 2010

I finally got around to reading (large chunks of) David Stockman’s book on the rise of Reaganomics. Having done so, I realize I could have learned everything I needed from the back cover:

There’s only one thing I disagree with here: “…it had not been his fault. He had been misled by a crew of overzealous — and ultimately incompetent — advisers.”

By my lights, if a president has one responsibility above all others, it is to choose good advisors, and to know when to ignore them. If he fails in that, it is very much his “fault.” Reagan’s poor judgment has echoed, amplified, for decades, and those incompetent advisers and their cronies and successors are still with us in force.

If there’s one thing Reagan should get full credit for, it’s his belief that the Soviet Union could change — despite the almost unanimous opinion of all his advisors. (Including our current SecDef.)

And if he gets credit for that, he should receive full blame for the other thing. Which is paradoxically just what Stockman says in his last paragraph, above.

  1. Chris
    April 8th, 2010 at 16:18 | #1

    To Reagan’s credit, he did raise taxes somewhat in 1982; but yeah, responsibility for the failures of his advisers ultimately lie with him.

  2. Chris
    April 13th, 2010 at 12:02 | #2

    The biggest error that has stayed with us is Reagan’s overselling of tax cuts to the point that many people seem to think that the proper level of taxes is zero. This has made tax increases politically extremely difficult, even when the economy could easily absorb it. His other errors wouldn’t be nearly as bad if it wasn’t for the entrenchment of hostility to any level of taxation.

  3. April 13th, 2010 at 15:18 | #3

    Yeah: even 1% more in GDP in taxes (especially more efficient taxes) would have a profound effect on the federal deficit and debt. And we’d still be taxing less than every other prosperous country except Japan and Korea.

  4. coberly
    May 11th, 2010 at 17:14 | #4

    i thought i was the only one saying that.. the economy could absorb a tax increase, even now.

    quick, lets call our congressmen and let them know.

  5. May 11th, 2010 at 17:58 | #5

    The bad news is that tax *increases* (as opposed to levels) retard economic growth *in the short term.* So recessions –when the economy is not performing to capacity and demand is needed to spur that capacity usage — are not the best time to implement them.

    The best (recent) time was during Clinton’s term (worked great!), and during W’s (admittedly tepid) expansion. Doh!

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