Stockman: man with a mission

David A. Stockman seems driven to cut budgets by the same sense of moral purpose that compels an artist to create. There is a sort of fire in him when he talks of "the great social pork barrel" he believes government has become. His eyes harden. His hands move. The thoughts and concepts fly thick and fast, always a cut above mere rhetoric.

Mr. Stockman, President Reagan's choice to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), reads budget tables with an enthusiasm others reserve for the Sunday funnies. A devotee of supply-side economics, he is convinced America's economic problems are largely the result of heavy-handed government policy.

He is a thin, sandy-haired man with the earnest look of a rising junior executive. He was born in Texas, but grew up on a fruit farm in St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated from Michigan State University and went to Harvard Divinity School, where he attracted the attention of Daniel P. Moynihan and was subsequently converted to the theology of politics.

The endorsement of Mr. Moynihan got Stockman a job on Rep. John Anderson's staff in 1970. Two years later he was staff director of the House Conference Committee -- the youngest person ever to hold the job.

In 1976 he muscled aside an incumbent Republican and landed his own congressional seat. He quickly acquired the reputation of a man consumed by his work. His love for statistics is so strong that aides claim he actually understands the computer in his office.

Stockman earned Ronald Reagan's respect while serving as a sparing partner during preparation for the presidential campaign debates. Reportedly, Reagan aides wanted Stockman to run the Energy Department, but he held out for the job that was closer to his heart: head of OMB.

He has promised to trim the 1981 budget 2 percent. "Entitlement programs" such as food stamps will earn his particular scrutiny, as will an obscure institution named the Federal Financing Bank which Stockman believes chalks up nearly $18 billion in almost unnoticed government expenditures every year.

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