Friday, July 01, 2011

The Reverse Stockman Theory

About half way into the first term of Ronald Reagan the President's budget director, David Stockman, dropped out of his position as budget director and "admitted" that the "real" plan had been to "starve the beast" - i.e. to create large enough deficits that the Congress would be forced to reduce government to balance the budget.  Stockman made a mini-career, after being one of the proponents of supply side theory, to become one of the leader critics.

One could make the reverse argument for the current president.  The huge expansion of spending through the stimulus bill and expansions of health care and financial regulation were indeed a plot to increase the share of GDP going to the government so quickly that Congress would be forced to increase taxes enough to cover the deficit.

There is no doubt that Mr. Reagan aspired to reduce the size of government.   Likewise, there is no mistaking that Mr. Obama would relish a larger role for government.   But like the earlier thesis by Stockman, I do not believe the world is as simple as that.   The dynamics of politics in a republic tend to put a damper on ambitions that are outside the norm.

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