Bruce Bartlett, former Reagan economic advisor now conservative apostate, in an utterly fascinating interview with Bill Moyers. I was shocked at how much I agreed with one of the architects of Reaganomics.
One of the things that Bush argued during the campaign, not so much after he took office, is that budget surpluses are a bad thing. Because they might get spent. It really sounds silly when you say that. But he did say this over and over again.
And so, the idea of cutting taxes was a part of a policy that I call starving the beast. It’s you take away the government’s credit card, as Ronald Reagan said. And this will force spending down. This will shrink the size of government. And conservatives believe that there’s only so much freedom out there. And the more the government, the more power government has, there’s less freedom for the people.
And they have a tendency to look at this in terms of spending as a share of GDP. So it can be measured very precisely. So if the federal government takes 25 percent of GDP, then essentially, we have only 75 percent freedom. We’re not 100 percent free. You know, if we could cut government spending down to 20 percent of GDP, then we would gain five percent freedom. We’ll go from being 75 percent free to being 80 percent.
I’m serious. This is the way they think. And this drives a lot of these policies that on the surface don’t make any sense. They’re just about taking away the government’s resources to force it to shrink to — if you cut the budgets of the regulatory agencies, then they can’t regulate. This is a good thing.