Déjà Vu All Over Again

This post is taken from “Economic Strategy for the Reagan Administration,” a memo summarizing studies commissioned by candidate Ronald Reagan and delivered to President-elect Reagan on mid-November 1980, as summarized in The Wall Street Journal.  The memo began

Sharp change in present economic policy is an absolute necessity.  The problems of inflation and slow growth, of falling standards of living and declining productivity, of high government spending but an inadequate flow of funds for defense, of an almost endless litany of economic ills, large and small, are severe, they are not intractable.  Having been produced by government policy, they can be redressed by a change in policy.

Aside from the high inflation of 1980, that could have been written today.  Besides, the actual inflation then is a threatened inflation today, with the Fed’s policy of deliberately depressed interest rates and rapid printing of money coupled with the administration’s prolific spending.

You have identified in the campaign the key issues and lines of policy necessary to restore hope and confidence in a better economic future:

  • Reestablish stability in the purchasing power of the dollar.
  • Achieve a widely-shared prosperity through real growth in jobs, investment, and productivity.
  • Devote the resources needed for a strong defense, and accomplish the goal of releasing the creative forces of entrepreneurship, management, and labor by:
  • Restraining government spending.
  • Reducing the burden of taxation and regulation.
  • Conducting monetary policy in a steady manner, directed toward eliminating inflation.

This amounts to emphasis on fundamentals for the full four years, as the key to a flourishing economy.

Sound like what’s needed today?

The need for a long-term point of view is essential to allow for the time, the coherence, and the predictability so necessary for success. This long-term view is as important for day-to-day problem solving as for the making of large policy decisions.

This was true then, 50 years after the start of the New Deal, a 50-year period of spendthrift policies and high taxes, and it’s even truer today, 30 years farther down that road, with this administration’s effort to raise taxes on top of its already explosive spending and debt accumulation.  It’ll take a long time, and a long-term strategy is critical, to repair the damage.

The memo went on with sound advice concerning budgeting, tax policy, regulation, energy, and monetary policy—it could have been written for delivery to President-elect Mitt Romney in mid-November 2012.  And we can certainly hope both for President-elect Mitt Romney, and that he takes this advice to heart.  The incumbent certainly has already eschewed it.

I’ll more on the Reagan memo in the coming days.

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