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."


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



Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B


Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.