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I just finished The Triumph of PoliticsWhy the Reagan Revolution Failed by David Stockman. Of all the books I’ve read about politics, foreign affairs, economics, etc. I’ve read since getting interested in government, this is one of the most memorable.  I kept shutting the book and saying to myself:  “No way!”  And despite its being a 400 page book in which about 350 pages are about the formation of a federal budget from January 1980 to December 1980, I found myself laughing at the style, the anecdotes, and, ultimately, being very sympathetic to someone who is in many ways my ideological opposite.

After reading The Education of David Stockman and Other Americans by William Greider, I figured that Stockman’s book would offer a series of mitigating factors that would blunt the severity of the budget fiasco described in Greider’s book.  I figured I would be reading apologetics for Reaganomics.  In fact, Stockman’s book actually makes all of the bad things in Greider’s book appear incalculably worse.  He savages most of the senior Reagan administration officials, does worse to the supply-side “central committee”, and ultimately portrays Ronald Reagan as a dangerously incompetent actor responsible for a fiscal crisis unimaginable in previous years.  According to Stockman, for eight years in the 1980’s the US was led by a man who could not understand very elementary concepts about governance, mathematics, and, finally, responsibility.  I’ve read books about Reagan before, and he is certainly never (aside from the hagiographies) depicted as an intelligent man, but in Stockman’s book he is shown to be a dangerously (for lack of a better word) stupid man.  The anecdotes about Reagan not understanding that he could not cut taxes while not cutting spending without generating huge deficits were incredible.  And a particular anecdote involving then Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger using cartoon characters to convince Reagan that he should increase defense spending was outrageous.

The depiction of the congressional deliberations leading to the tax cut and the subsequent attempts to cut spending are worth reading.  I’m not going to get into the depiction of Congress because I’m too busy with other things.  I’ll leave you with a chart I scanned from the book.  It shows the costs of Kemp-Roth:

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On May 3, 2009, the National debt was $11,236,997,227,054. Click here to see the most current figure.

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