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David Stockman takes President Obama and Rep. Paul Ryan to the woodshed

Back when he was Ronald Reagan's budget director, David Stockman got "taken to the woodshed" for his candid comments about Reagan's tax cuts. Now, he says both President Obama and Rep. Paul Ryan are playing class warfare with taxes.

By Staff writer / April 24, 2011

Budget Director David Stockman (R), Treasury Secretary Donald Regan, and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Murray Weidenbaum testify before the House Budget Committee in February 1982.

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If you remember anything at all about David Stockman, it’s probably his being “taken to the woodshed” when he was Ronald Reagan’s budget director.

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That was back in late 1981 when he gave a long interview to William Greider for the Atlantic magazine. In a piece titled “The Education of David Stockman,” the young former congressman from Michigan acknowledged that Reagan’s tax cut was “a Trojan horse” to bring down the top tax rate.

“The supply-side formula was the only way to get a tax policy that was really 'trickle down’,” he told Greider. "None of us really understands what's going on with all these numbers.”

The White House was not happy – senior aides trotted him off to the press room to recant, sort of.

But he lasted through Reagan’s first term, then went off to become a successful businessman. He also wrote “The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed” – mainly a slam at Republicans in Congress for their failure to push for deep budget cuts. The result of tax cuts without accompanying cuts in government spending were rising deficits.

Sound familiar?

Stockman is back with essentially the same message, and in a “pox on both your houses” column in the New York Times Sunday he says both President Obama and House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R) have it wrong.

“In attacking the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent of taxpayers, the president is only incidentally addressing the deficit,” he writes. “Mr. Obama is thus playing the class-war card more aggressively than any Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt – surpassing Harry S. Truman or John F. Kennedy when they attacked big business or Lyndon B. Johnson or Jimmy Carter when they posed as champions of the little guy.”

“On the other side,” he continues, “Representative Ryan fails to recognize that we are not in an era of old-time enterprise capitalism in which the gospel of low tax rates and incentives to create wealth might have had relevance.”

“So the Ryan plan worsens our trillion-dollar structural deficit and the Obama plan amounts to small potatoes, at best,” he concludes. “Worse, we are about to descend into class war because the Obama plan picks on the rich when it should be pushing tax increases for all, while the Ryan plan attacks the poor when it should be addressing middle-class entitlements and defense.”

While he whacks both Obama and Ryan, Stockman seems to be especially disappointed with his fellow Republicans, and it’s not the first time he’s done so in this widely-read venue.

In a column taking on GOP lawmakers last July, he took particular aim at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for pushing to extend the Bush tax cuts.

“Mr. McConnell’s stand puts the lie to the Republican pretense that its new monetarist and supply-side doctrines are rooted in its traditional financial philosophy,” he wrote. “Republicans used to believe that prosperity depended upon the regular balancing of accounts – in government, in international trade, on the ledgers of central banks and in the financial affairs of private households and businesses, too. But the new catechism, as practiced by Republican policymakers for decades now, has amounted to little more than money printing and deficit finance – vulgar Keynesianism robed in the ideological vestments of the prosperous classes.”

Ouch.

It seems David Stockman now is the one taking others to the woodshed.

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