dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

Rumble on the Right

Now that the GOP has gone all serious on us about the economy, it is interesting to see a substantive criticism of Paul Ryan's economic policies (and record) by a significant figure on the Right. David Stockman was Reagan's Budget Director and one of the fathers of "supply side" economics. And he is angry.This article is important, because we need to remember that there aren't just two alternatives. Each economic alternative (Obama's and Romney's) represents various possibilities from within the Right and the Left, and these should be addressed too.

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

I have to admit that as a writer, I also very much the like expression "folded like a lawn chair."

Stockman sounds as scarey as Ryan, just in a different way!

True. But his position, unlike Ryan's, is coherent. One can't have small government and the kind of free market that Romney talks about without attacking the monopolies and downsizing the military(-industrial complex).

I can't think of a single Republican President since Calvin Coolidge who has actually pursued a small-government policy. They want big government just as much as the Democrats do, just big in different ways. The one possible exception to that might be Ike, but even he favored big government projects such as the Interstate Highway system. Ike also warned against the 'military-industrial complex,' but only at the end of his administration.

Every time I drive on I-95 from Florida to Pennsylvania I say: "I like Ike" except when I pass through South Carolina and Virginia where I got speeding tickets.

The only way Ike could get into this year's GOP conclave would be by having a heart attack right in front of the door to the convention hall. Ditto T.R. And as for Lincoln, if he had a heart attack there, they'd just roll him into the gutter, or find someone to roll him into the gutter for them. That the inventor of Ronald Reagan's magic asterisk in budgeting (details to come later) should find Paul Ryan's specified tax cuts and unspecified loophole closings appalling shows just how much the party has fallen just since R.R. (And, no, that doesn't mean you have to vote Democratic.)

Maureen Dowd writes her best column (on any subject) on Ryan. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/15/opinion/dowd-when-cruelty-is-cute.html... is just replete with quotable lines. "Hes the cutest package that cruelty ever came in. ""Like Mitt Romney, Ryan truly believes he made it on his own, so everyone else can, too. He shrugs off the advantage of starting as the white guy from an affluent family, able to breeze into a summer internship for a Wisconsin Republican senator as a college student.""Ryan should stop being so lovable. People who intend to hurt other people should wipe the smile off their faces."It is really better than a keynote speech.

Lovable Liberals? Hardly. Dowd has been dour and sour for quite awhile now, Biden says Romney will put blacks folks "back in chains", and CNN snickers and the slavery inference. Democrats demonizing and distorting is more what this campaign is starting to look like.

Oops - ' . . . at the slavery inference'

Rumble on the Right? Not really. In any case, Republicans mend fences quickly, and we will all get behind the Romney-Ryan ticket.

Ken, Some thought -out posts would be desirable once in a while.

I agree with Maureen Dowd. Even before he was the pick, Ryan stood out to me as somewhat dangerous. Smug is what he is when you consider the accumulated wealth from his wife's family and his own. Do we really want an inexperienced foreign policy team in the White House, not to mention the economy? The "tadoo" about Biden's comment is just that. I wasn't even thinking about Black people...he was referring to untethering Wallstreet from their recently imposed restricitons after the 09 collapse. Talk about trumped up politics from the GOP..give us a break!

David Stockman has been an outsider of the conservative movement for years. He has absolutely zero influence on the GOP. This is no "rumble" on the right.

But are his points well taken?

unagidon: of course they are, but not in Teapublican circles, unless he toes whatever line is dictated by Limbaugh, Hannity, FauxNews, Adelson, the Kochs, ad nauseum.

Ryan is also a trumpeter of Ayn Rand. Except when it comes to religion, war and women's rights. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/15/opinion/ayn-rand-wouldnt-approve-of-pa...

I'm not sure which is more amusing: the notion that David Stockman can be credibly quoted as a significant figure on the Right or, given his track record, the notion that he can be credibly quoted at all.

Im not sure which is more amusing: the notion that David Stockman can be credibly quoted as a significant figure on the Right or, given his track record, the notion that he can be credibly quoted at all.

Nice. Sort of reminds me of Stalin killing all the Old Bolsheviks from the original revolution that he could lay his hands on.So Stockman is wrong? Care to tell me how? I know that his standing in the tribe has fallen, but he makes some serious points that are either true or false.

"Sort of reminds me of ..." Wow, that comparison is over the line, no? And I mean waaaaay over the line.

Give Ryan this. He can develop a program. This is why the right embraces him. All they have is negativity. Ryan at least gives them a semblance of a platform.

I agree with Dowd about Ryan and the belief he made it on his own. There's a post at the NYT's philosophy blog about this - the writer calls it the "veil of opulance" - the refusal of sucessful people to credit their debt to luck .... http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/the-veil-of-opulence/

Fr. Jack is back! It's amusing how every right-winger here is dutifully repeating the refrain that David Stockman cannot be taken seriously as a Republican. Did anyone read the op-ed? Where is the apostasy? Incidentally, if the economy sank under lo those many years of GOP fiscal policy, why should it grow under the Ryan plan?

Wow, that comparison is over the line, no? And I mean waaaaay over the line.

I have watched as the Republican Party has moved waaaaay beyond Reagan and yet it still wants to claim His Immortal Mantle. Stockman was speaking as an angry Reaganite, but the current flavor is to claim that people like him are not really Reaganites, which is like saying that Trotsky wasn't really a Communist. There haven't been judicial murders in the Party, but there has certainly been a purge.By the way, I wasn't implying that you were like Stalin and if I made you cry I deeply apologize.

Crystal --Interesting article. But I do think that criticisms of Rand because of her atheism are rather irrelevant. You can be a good atheist and wise in the ways of politics. I also think that anti-Randians over-simplify her appeal, making her the antithesis of such tried and true political sages as Aquinas. In fact, Rand, like Aquinas, was a great admirer of Aristotle (or so she said), and in fact she did incorporate some basic Aristotelian principles into her philosophy. She agreed that the purpose of man's life is to be happy, that human happiness is to be found in the actualization of our superior potentials, and that we are each responsible for ourselves. He would have applauded all of this, and so should we. But he also held (unlike her) that man as a social animal, a being whose fulfillment can be realized only in conjunction with other human beings, and that the state hss the right to make demands of the individual for the sake of he common good.Ryan says he admires Aquinas more than Rand, but we have yet to hear what he says about the necessity at times of sacrificing one's own good for the sake of the whole social unit.I must admit, however, that Ryan is 10 cuts above Romney, who doesn't seem to have thought any further than tomorrow's Dow-Jones average. At least he thinks, however imperfectly.Oh, by the way, there is one thing about Rand I really admire -- she insists that to live a human life one *must think* and think rationally and deeply about what one's life will be, and, I'd say, should be. No going through life just weighing the merits of this columnist latest words of wisdom against another's latest column. We need to do the hard stuff ourselves for ourselves. She's very ARistotelian in this -- man is a rational animal, and when we do not use our reasoning powers full force we will descend to the level of clowns and beasts.

Hi Ann,I haven't read any of Rand's books myself but I've read about her, that she thought the only great philosophers were the "three As" - Aristotle, Aquinas, and herself ;) Maybe I'm not a good Catholic, but I don't really like Aristotle/Aquinas. I vote for Plato :)About Ryan's education - the aquisition of knowledge is good and so is intelligence but they can't take the place of empathy, compassion, or the will to do good.

Crystal --Contrary to popular belief you don't have to be a Thomist to be a Catholic (though some people do seem to think so). I too have only read about Rand's philosophy, though I did read "The Fountainhead". It's about some thoroughly repulsive people, so that was enough for me.I'm not a Thomist myself (I disagree with some of his metaphysics, ethics and epistemology), though I do recognize his greatness in many areas. He really does have a tremendous amount to offer. Let me recommend Edward Feser's little book "Aquinas". It's the best introduction I've ever seen. Amazingly clear. Feser is a conservative politically, but he does give reasons for it, so I forgive him :-) But don't read his "The New Superstition". It's a nasty polemic against some neo-atheists who also write nasty polemics. "Aquinas" isn't like that.

Can't believe you are giving any credence to David Stockman. Oh, I forgot, whatever serves the interest of bashing those who oppose Obama. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are two of the most competent individuals to run for office. They both also happen to be gentlemen of great character. Their proposals are reasonable alternatives to grow our economy.

Can't believe St. Ronald Reagan gave any credence to David Stockman. So wonder why he made Stockman his budget director. Oh, I forgot. That was the historical Ronald Reagan. Now the mythical Ronald Reagan is ascendant in a party that would be suspicious of him if he were still alive.

Stockman has a certain amount of credibility as a conservative because he's liberals' second favorite kind: a "reformed" one (only a dead one is preferable). But I cannot help but find it ironic that some here are citing a column in which he writes this:"Mr. Ryan showed his conservative mettle in 2008 when he folded like a lawn chair on the auto bailout and the Wall Street bailout. But the greater hypocrisy is his phony plan to solve the entitlements mess by deferring changes to social insurance by at least a decade."Or this: "A true agenda to reform the welfare state would require a sweeping, income-based eligibility test, which would reduce or eliminate social insurance benefits for millions of affluent retirees."Or this: "We need a national sales tax a consumption tax, like the dreaded but efficient value-added tax but Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan dont have the gumption to support it. "Since when did folks here think the auto bailout & TARP were unacceptable? Or agree that the welfare state is riddled with "millions of affluent retirees"? Or that a sales/consumption tax is acceptable (remember, a national sales tax is the basis for most "flat tax" proposals)? Are we to believe that Ryan is, simultaneously, so conservative as to be out of the mainstream (Look - there's Ayn Rand!) AND a total sell-out to big government? If the byline of the column read "Ron Paul", I can imagine the treatment here.By the way, with the addition of Steve Rattner to the op-ed pages, since when did the Grey Lady conclude that hedge funders charged with defrauding their investors should lead the charge against the righties? I guess criticism of the right covereth a multitude of sins.

Many thanks to Ann Olivier for her remarks about Rand. I'm not a Rand expert, just someone who has read her novels and wants those hours of my life back.A good place to get a taste of Rand without wasting a lot of time, however, is with "Anthem," a very short dystopian novel written in the 1930s (which, IMO, seems to have been heavily influenced by Zamyatin's "We," a much better book).For Rand, the common good IS the good of the individual. And that seems to me to be a very odd idea for a Catholic like Ryan at a time when many Church leaders are preaching against the evils of individuality.In "Anthem," Rand makes it clear that when people are free to pursue their potential and choose the people with whom they wish to associate out of affection and common purpose, community with thrive. She sees the corporation in romanticized terms (she called herself a romantic), and, ironically, I see a good deal of what the Soviets envisioned for their collectives in her notion of the corporation. Sadly, collectives in communist tyrannies were grim and inept operations because they didn't foster affection and common purpose. Instead, collective members often watched for opportunities to turn hated co-workers into the party boss, and nobody really cared if the means of production were efficient or produced any quality items. If anyone sees parallels with today's corporate culture, well, you're not the only one. I hasten to add that if interdepartmental intrigue, jealousies and hatreds get you fired in today's corporations, you only lose your job. You aren't sent to Siberia or some other hinterland for starvation and re-education.Rand's own experiences with totalitarian communism were interesting. She was very brainy and received a top-notch education under the Soviet regime--an education not open to women under the czars. But she wanted to live her OWN life, not become an intellectual cog that served the Soviet machinery. She managed to get into the U.S. on a tourist visa saying she had a fiance back in Russia (she didn't), and wouldn't be staying. She married Frank O'Connor before her visa ran out, which allowed her to stay and pursue naturalization.

Josh--I mean Jeff: "Stockman has a certain amount of credibility as a conservative because hes liberals second favorite kind: a 'reformed' one (only a dead one is preferable)." What are you talking about? You go on to cite examples of Stockman's unreformed fiscal conservatism. I know it's difficult, but try to take in the point of unagidon's post here.

"It would be best if you used your real name when commenting, but if you have a good reason not to, we require persistent pseudonyms. That is, pick a handle and stick with it. If you post under multiple names, your accounts will be blocked."Or are only people who agree with you (unagidon) allowed the benefit of this rule? If you have a problem with my use of this rule, then feel free to contact me directly, because, frankly, your tactic above is childish.Beyond that, I take unagidon's point as: "This article is important, because we need to remember that there arent just two alternatives. Each economic alternative (Obamas and Romneys) represents various possibilities from within the Right and the Left, and these should be addressed too."I'm evaluating Stockman's alternative conservative proposal by pointing out that Stockman's proposals are actually more extreme than Ryan's, which I would think would make Stockman an uneasy ally for left-leaning critics of Ryan.

I have only and ever posted as unagidon, so you don't need to worry about that.I don't agree with Stockman any more than I agree with Ryan. What was interesting about Stockman's piece are his claims for what Ryan is really doing as opposed to what he says he's doing.

"I have only and ever posted as unagidon, so you dont need to worry about that."Then the rule should be applied to all who consistently follow it, not just insurance executives.

unagidonHis assertion that defense spending is a primary driver of our fiscal problems is absolute rubbish and his use of statistics to "prove" it is misleading. Who cares whether the defense budget, adjusted for inflation, is double what it was in the 50's. As a percentage of the federal budget, it is less than a third what it was then - 70% vs. >25%. More importantly, as a percentage of GDP in the post-war era, it is historically low and significantly lower than in the 50's and 60's when it was at its peak.Also, his discussion of the threat and what is needed for defense display a gross ignorance of what money is being spent on what aspects of the "warfare state" budget. First, the vast majority of that budget is spent on personnel costs, and as the numbers of forces draw down, so does that part of the budget. Also, claiming we have no "advanced industrial state enemies" doesn't address what spending is occuring and why it is necessary. Much of this spending is going towards new types of warfare and defense like cyber and information warfare and systems that can be used in many levels of warfare like drones, command and control, communication and intelligence systems. In these areas our enemies may not be, and usually aren't, large industrial countries, but the threat is real and serious. As for those big ticket systems like fighters, bombers, tanks, and warships, we are buying far fewer, but far more sophisticated weapons. Why? Well maybe because our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are operating, in many cases, on systems that their grandfathers used. This is no exageration. China may not be making as many aircraft as the Soviets did, but we will be at a disadvantage if we are trying to detect them with radars that were made in the 1960's. Finally, while it costs a fortune to buy some of these new systems, it costs even more to operate the old ones. Everything from fuel efficiency to being able to find parts for 30-50 year old machines or completely re-equipping 20th century systems with 21st century technology is making these Cold War systems cost prohibitive.He has some points about needs testing and sales taxes or a VAT.My point above was not to address his arguments, but to point out that his opinion hardly indicates some rift on the right.

Fine argument about the defense budget as a percentage of GDP, Sean. The problem is, once you make it, you have to support entitlements as a percent of GDP on the same basis. Also, you are making the "deficits don't matter" argument (at least Cheney's version of it) and supporting those who think that a new and very strong stimulus package, which would create growth and raise GDP would be the way to go

Ann,Thanks for the book recommendation - I'll take a look.

Jean --Very interesting analogy -- Rand's conflating of collectives and corporations. Ideas do survive in surprising ways, don't they. Hmm. I wonder if the sociologists have studied the cultures of the lower levels of employees in corporations. It seems to me that many corporations do manage to win the loyalty of the underlings while others hate them. Hmm. I wonder what it's like to work for a bank these days! Are the tellers despised like their policy makers are?

OK - I will - entitlement spending has increased from 2.5% to nearly 10% of GDP between 1965 and 2012 - so I don't get you point.I am not making the deficits don't matter argument. I am simply saying that defense spending is not the primary driver of deficits, and never has been. Perhaps my take on this is facile, but both in my experience in life and observation of history, the more difficult and costly you make a thing, the less of it you will have, and the more you subsidize and support a thing the more of it you get. It seems to me that over taxing wealth creation and subsidizing dependency is a unsustainable and a recipe for disaster in any economy.

God help the poor oppressed conservatives. J: I don't like pseudonyms, but recognize they are sometimes a necessary evil. (We have, from time to time, considered going with Facebook logins. Still a live option.) But if you're going to pick one, best not to go with something that looks like an actual name. Especially when it's the name of a sitting congressman. Especially when you have claimed that you "share the name with a Republican Congressman from Louisiana." See, that makes you look deceptive. And makes me doubt you have a good reason to use it. No one was ever under the impression that unagidon was his Christian name.

For the record, I have used the name consistently on this and other sites well before the Republican Congressman was a Congressman. I have changed it one other sites when their rules were changed to require actual names. I have not done so here, primarily out of laziness.And I was never under the impression that I was oppressed. Only confused that apparently you choose to enforce your own rules when and where you seem fit.But happy to know you consider me deceptive. Real civil of you.

There are less civil terms for people who deliberately mislead others.

Unagidon--There's no need to be snarky, or to apologize to me, as I was not the one slighted by your comment. The ones slighted were those murdered by a Communist dictator, whose suffering you were reminded of when a former government bureaucrat suffered the indignity of having someone opine that he has no credibility on the impact that tax rates have on tax revenues.You might want to consider apologizing to them. Or simply retract your comment. We all go too far from time to time--I'm sure I have.

"There are less civil terms for people who deliberately mislead others."As there are for people who impugn others. I have followed the rule set forth on this board. If you had a problem with it, you could have requested I address it.

His assertion that defense spending is a primary driver of our fiscal problems is absolute rubbish and his use of statistics to prove it is misleading. Who cares whether the defense budget, adjusted for inflation, is double what it was in the 50s. As a percentage of the federal budget, it is less than a third what it was then 70% vs. >25%. More importantly, as a percentage of GDP in the post-war era, it is historically low and significantly lower than in the 50s and 60s when it was at its peak.

You forgot to include the interest on the debt of our earlier military expenditures (since you have included it entitlements), plus homeland security, military's increasing piece of discretionary spending, Veterans' Affairs, etc. Starts to add up and starts to approach entitlements as a percentage of GDP. And again, if you talk about the Federal Debt in terms of itself, military spending is both a big piece of it and a big contributor to the deficit.Do we need to spend 40 to 48 percent of all defense spending in the world? You haven't convinced me that it's necessary. Talking about old weapons systems seems to me to be an argument that says that we spent so much before, so we have to keep spending at that rate in the future.

Theres no need to be snarky, or to apologize to me, as I was not the one slighted by your comment. The ones slighted were those murdered by a Communist dictator, whose suffering you were reminded of when a former government bureaucrat suffered the indignity of having someone opine that he has no credibility on the impact that tax rates have on tax revenues.

You weren't talking about tax rates. You said that Stockman had no credibility. I pointed out that he was a Reaganite and one of the founders of Reaganomics, which is what the currently degraded Republican Party is supposedly appealing to. Stockman disagrees and all you can say is that he is out of favor, without in fact addressing him directly.As for Stalin, I have no idea what you are trying to get at.

I generally dont like to do this, but some time there are so many inaccuraciesYou werent talking about tax rates. Sure I was.You said that Stockman had no credibility. Yep, when it comes to his ability to forecast the impact of tax rates on tax revenue.I pointed out that he was a Reaganite Well, he was once in Reagans cabinet, but while there, in an interview with the Atlantic Monthly, he made it clear he was not a Reaganite.and one of the founders of Reaganomics,A laughable assertion, he mocked Reaganomics.which is what the currently degraded Wishful thinking, clearly.Republican Party is supposedly appealing to. No supposedly about it.Stockman disagreesMore accurately, Stockman has never agreed.and all you can sayOh, Ive said a whole lot more. is that he is out of favor, More accurately, he has never been in favor.without in fact addressing him directly.Actually, I did address Stockman, and quite directly. What I did not address is his interview in the NYT. As I think Ive made abundantly clear, hes not credible enough to listen to, given the embarrassingly incorrect predictions he made re Reaganomics.As for Stalin, I have no idea what you are trying to get at.Thats simply not believable.

David Stockman was Reagan's budget director and one of the architects of what came to be called Reaganomics. He disavowed Reaganomics and especially what Reagan's other advisers did with things like the Laffer Curve. (Laffer said that a reduction in taxes would lead to an increase in investment/revenue under certain circumstances. Stockman did not disagree with Laffer's ideas, but said that these circumstances did not exist in the 1980's. But it has become a matter of GOP theology that cutting taxes always produces more capital and stimulates investment. THIS is what he disagrees with on the tax question.) Stockman disavowed "Reaganomics" because it didn't fulfill its promises and came to look like just those things he is criticizing Ryan for. The point of the NYT article was that Ryan is in fact not a small government supporter and is, in fact, pro-monopoly pro-crony capitalist. His points are well taken. One can disagree with him, but what one cannot do is to say that he is discredited on the subject of taxes and that therefore what he says isn't true. It might not be relevant to Tea Party circles (like so much of what Reagan did), but it does constitute a criticism from the Right and you still have not addressed it.With my Stalin reference I was saying that the current Right is disavowing its own legacy while claiming the mantle of the people being disavowed. I was equating Reagan with the "Old Bolsheviks". Since you claim that I should apologize to these victims of Stalin, I hereby apologize to the Old Bolsheviks for equating them with Republicans.

Last comment on this subject (sorry, unagidon): J, you impugned yourself when you said you happened to have the same name as a congressman from Louisiana, and later suggested you were just using a nom de web.

1. Again, it's not against YOUR rules. When confusion arose as to the matter, I was clear that I was NOT a Congressman from Louisiana. 2. Again, if there was concern over the matter, you could have requested a change. I have done so on other sites. You didn't. Don't blame me for not doing your job.

Pages