Deficit Nostalgia

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Jan. 31 1999 11:37 AM

Deficit Nostalgia

During the 1980s, Sen. Pat Moynihan famously accused the Republicans of creating the federal budget deficit on purpose in order to inhibit government growth. In his memoir The Triumph of Politics, David Stockman, Reagan's budget director, said, somewhat equivocatingly, that this wasn't true. "[N]ot six of the six hundred players in the game of fiscal governance in the spring and summer of 1981 would have willed this outcome," he wrote. "Yet caught up in the powerful forces unleashed by the dangerous experiment of a few supply siders who had gotten the President's good ear, they let it happen just the same."

Advertisement

Okay, so maybe most of them didn't create the deficit on purpose. But they didn't mind it once it came. Do they miss it now?

Chatterbox believes they do. In his Washington Post column today, George Will bitches (with some Swiftian irony, but not nearly enough) about "the nightmare of surpluses, which seem to guarantee growth of government services without the irritation of increased taxation." Will, with Moynihan, believes that Reagan enlarged the deficit on purpose (with the difference that Will seems to approve, while Moynihan did not). Now he's moping not just about the elimination of the deficit but about prosperity in general: "The longer America's surge of wealth-creation continues, the lower the public's pain threshold becomes, and the higher the public's expectations for government guaranteed against uncertainty and compulsion by events."

Chatterbox thinks thinks nostalgie de la deficit is the wave of the future in Republican politics, and that when it's put forward by politicians (as opposed to commentators) it will be irony-free. This, in turn, will create a unique opportunity for bipartisan action. Grover Norquist, the Republican activist, has a campaign to name everything that moves after Ronald Reagan. How about naming the budget deficit after Ronald Reagan?

--Timothy Noah

TODAY IN SLATE

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Paul Farmer: Up to 90 Percent of Ebola Patients Should Survive

Is he right?

Science

“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.

Politics

The Right to Run

If you can vote, you should be able to run for public office—any office.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 6:30 PM The Tragedies That Have Shaped Canada's Gun Politics
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 4:10 PM Skinny Mark Wahlberg Goes for an Oscar: The First Trailer for The Gambler
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.