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Reagan’s Budget Director Rips Republicans for Ditching Fiscal Conservatism

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In this morning’s New York Times, former Reagan Administration OMB director, David Stockman, rips Republicans a justified new you-know-what.  The cause of Stockman’s righteous rant?  How about the fact that Republicans – and a few foolish, craven, pandering Democrats – are calling for continued tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, even as our nation’s public debt “will soon reach $18 trillion.” According to Stockman, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s stance on this issue “puts the lie to the Republican pretense that its new monetarist and supply-side doctrines are rooted in its traditional financial philosophy.”

In other words, so much for traditional, Republican, balanced-budget, fiscal conservatism. Instead, according to Stockman – and he’s absolutely right about this, of course – today’s GOP has subscribed to an approach that involves “little more than money printing and deficit finance – vulgar Keynesianism robed in the ideological vestments of the prosperous classes.”  And that, in Stockman’s view, has both “made a mockery of traditional party ideals” and “led to the serial financial bubbles and Wall Street depredations that have crippled our economy.”

I strongly urge that you read the entire article, including Stockman’s appeal to Republicans that “the old approach – balanced budgets, sound money and financial discipline – is needed more than ever.”  It’s a refreshing and important reminder that today’s Republican Party wasn’t always the crazy hybrid that we see today: theocrats, anti-science and anti-reason “know nothings” like Ken Kook-inelli, foreign policy super-hawks like Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich, supporters of enormous corporate welfare (to whatever their favorite industry happens to be – oil, agriculture, etc.), and supply-side/la-la “Laffer” land loonies on budget matters (translation: spend and borrow, cut taxes for the rich, launch wars that aren’t paid for, repeat until we all go bankrupt).

Along with the takeover of the Republican Party by  Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority” theocrats, it was the adoption of Laffer-able “supply-side economics” (so much for balancing the budget!) by the Reagan Administration that led me straight out of the Republican Party (yes, I was a “Teenage Republican” in the late 1970s in Connecticut, went to a rally with Ronald Reagan and campaigned for Gerald Ford) and into my first voter for president in 1980 – for independent John Anderson. Since 1980, I’ve waited and waited for the old, sane Republican Party of Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, John Chafee, Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits, John Heinz, William Cohen, Prescott Bush, Mac Mathias, Lowell Weicker, and many others – to return. Sadly, it never has. Not only that, it’s actually moved further and further off the deep-end right, in which they actually have top officeholders and party leaders who flirt with secession; who call BP’s $20 billion escrow fund a “shakedown” (and even “un-American”); who are outright, unabashed, anti-Muslim bigots; and who launch “witch hunts” against scientists because they don’t “believe” in it.

Enough of this lunacy. It’s time for sane Republicans to speak out and to take their party back from the crazies. This morning, one of those sane Republicans – former Reagan Administration OMB Director David Stockman – did so on taxes and the budget, and he should be commended for it. Now, we need more Republicans to do the on other issues, foreign and domestic; to boot out the Sarah Palins and Newt Gingriches from their party; and to restore the GOP to what those letters stand for – “Grand Old Party.” Right now, it’s far from “Grand;” “neo” has taken over from “old;” and it’s not much of a party, unless you’re a multi-millionaire or a Fortune 500 corporation, perhaps.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    How ironic that David Stockman, the fellow who engineered the “starve the beast” plan for supply-side economics, now calls for real fiscal discipline. Even back then, however, Stockman acknowledged that Reaganomics was simply a way to slowly bankrupt the federal government in order to get rid of New Deal policies and privatize Social security (for the benefit of Wall Street).

    Even Milton Friedman admitted that the Bush tax cuts that returned us to Reagan levels were bad government policy, but he supported then in order to “starve the beast.”

    These fellows simply refused to admit that their policy was destructive to our democracy since it fulfilled the prophecy that democracy will flourish until, as Scottish history professor Alexander Tyler wrote in the 1700’s, the populace realizes that they can “vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.”

    Tyler was talking about the destruction of the ancient Athenian democracy, but his point still holds truth for our day.  

  • I couldn’t agree more with this.

  • jack russell

    There needs to be a penalty to be paid for joining the crazy caucus, but right now there really isn’t enough of one.  We will see in the fall of course – if the teabaggers get their asses handed to them, it might help some of the more sane Republicans start to take the party back.  But it won’t happen overnight – the religious fundamentalists control the party in many parts of the country, and those folks aren’t exactly known for being open to logic and reason.

    I have long suspected that we will see a split in the Republican party.  The teabaggers and the religious fundamentalists will go one direction – the more traditional fiscal conservative Republicans will go another.

    Right now the Democatic party is kind of straining – many non-crazy conservatives have become Blue-dog Democrats since there isn’t any other place for them.  If the Republicans split, they may join the other non-crazy conservatives.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    I fondly remember the discussions I had with my mother (God rest her soul), an Eisenhower Republican and a small (very, very small) business owner. I was a child of the 60’s, fired up with civil rights and liberal idealism. I may have disagreed with her on many things, but I also saw the truth in much of what she said: There is no free lunch; We have to pay for what we get as a society; Personal responsibility is more important than a government handout; If you want a something, figure out how to pay for it before you try to get it.

    The GOPers have rejected actual conservatism. Instead, ever since the “Southern Strategy,” the politics of personal destruction, the Rovian hate politics, etc., GOPers have jettisoned the business-based, conservative philosophy of their party for the politics of hate, division, and reckless spending.

    It is the Republican Party that was in control during the Panic of 1898, the Roaring Twenties that presaged the Great Depression, the “stagflation” of the 1970’s, and the Great Recession we are now emerging from.

    They haven’t shown themselves – in generations – capable of governing a modern representative democracy. For all its faults, the Democratic Party is truly the party of the adults.