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

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

Politics

The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.