Ronald Reagan’s former Budget Director contributed “Sundown in America” a multi-page opinion piece to the Sunday New York Times which loudly and eloquently described the illusions of our current economic system. While I don’t agree with everything Stockman believes, I think he is showing great wisdom and courage in making dire predictions and calling for extreme changes in our policy and politics.
Famously, Stockman left the Reagan White House in protest over the Gipper’s half-finished mandate. Yes, Reagan had cut taxes, but he never really cut spending. Stockman never bought into the easy idea .. that deficits don’t matter and that tax cuts pay for themselves. And although the Reagan revolution did clear the way for a return to better growth in the 80’s and 90’s, Stockman knew that the piper would call someday to collect the debt. Despite his foresight on that topic, his criticism of the Reagan legacy has earned him the derision of the Republican establishment for whom that particular hero worship is sacred.
Despite his misalignment with the Republican hierarchy, the Left has an even greater revulsion for Stockman. Since the crisis, he has become perhaps the most respected figure (with the possible exception of Alan Meltzer) to take the position that a system based on fiat currency is doomed. Those who most visibly argue these points, like Ron and Rand Paul, and myself, come from the libertarian movement. As a result, we can be easily dismissed as cranks. However, Stockman was once a card-carrying member of the power elite. His embrace of these principles is taken more seriously and is thus ripe for instant attack from liberal economists.
.. His critics argue that the Federal Reserve’s printing press provides a foolproof immunity to such pedestrian problems. But in the end, these paper protections will only exist on paper. We’re all Stocktonians now.