The view from inside. Some key Reagan revolutionaries assess their accomplishments in office

The following comments are taken from ``Where We Succeeded, Where We Failed,'' in the current volume of Policy Review, a publication of the Heritage Foundation. Kenneth L. Adelman, director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 1983-87; deputy US permanent representative to the UN 1981-83.

My greatest accomplishment sounds modest but, believe me, it's not: avoiding the endless caravan of arms control schemes that would have harmed US interests.

Those outside government cannot imagine the political, diplomatic, State Department-generated, and other pressures to adopt some harebrained ``new'' scheme to negotiate with the Soviets or to negotiate with ourselves. Had we moved down that road - and we started more times than I care to recall - we would have ended up with no agreement at best and a bad agreement at worst.

My greatest disappointment: We didn't do anything, really, about Soviet cheating. Not from want of effort but from want of answers. We never really found anything much to do about Soviet cheating. That's the sad truth.

Martin Anderson, assistant to the president for policy development, 1981-82.

My greatest accomplishment was probably helping to develop and implement President Reagan's comprehensive economic plan - his five-part program of reduced tax rates, lower growth rates for federal spending, regulatory reform, a sounder monetary policy, and stability and consistency for all aspects of that economic policy.

Reaganomics is not perfect, but it is way ahead of whatever is in second place. From 1982 to 1987, more than 13 million new jobs were created. We have had the longest period of steady peacetime growth - 61 consecutive months up to December 1987 - in history. Inflation has dropped so low it is no longer a serious public concern. Interest rates are low and steady.

My greatest disappointment was that we did not repeal draft registration. We came close, but we still wasted a good deal of time and money doing something that only lulls us into a false sense of security. Instead of keeping rapidly changing computer lists of male teen-agers, we should be devoting our efforts and resources to building the combat capability of our reserve force, the only force we can count on to react quickly in a future military emergency.

Linda Chavez, staff director, Commission on Civil Rights, 1983-85; deputy assistant to the president and director of office of public liaison, 1985-86.

For better or worse, the Reagan administration is generally perceived to have turned back the clock on affirmative-action programs in the last seven years. In practical terms, little has changed in the way affirmative action programs operate in the US.

Government contractors are still required to satisfy hiring and promotion goals based on proportional representation for minorities and women. With a single stroke of the pen, the President could have abolished quotas in the federal work force and in private sector employment involving federal contracts. Yet, despite much public debate and private wrangling between factions within the administration, nothing was done.

When I am asked what I am most proud of having accomplished during my tenure with the administration, slowing the progress of comparable-worth legislation immediately comes to mind.

Donald J. Devine, head of the Civil Service Agency transition, 1980-81; director of the Office of Personnel Management, 1981-85.

The President set as our main management goal the reduction of the size of domestic government and the achievement of more with lower budgets. As a result, non-defense employment was reduced by over 100,000 employees in the first four years. By the end of the term, 15 non-defense departments, agencies, and commissions had reduced their work force by 10 percent or more. Moreover, with a smaller work force, we were getting more done.

Perhaps my biggest managerial disappointment was the inefficiency created by a bloated White House staff.

Cabinet members and agency heads in the Reagan administration spent an inordinate amount of time answering inquiries from low-level members of the White House staff and OMB, many of whom had different agendas than the President's. It would be better for the President to choose individuals he knows can be trusted for major executive positions, give them a few clear directions, and allow them to make decisions without daily, counterproductive interference from the White House budget and policy staffs.

Frederick N. Khedouri, associate director for natural resources, energy, and science, Office of Management and Budget, 1981-85; deputy chief of staff to the vice-president, 1985-87.

In the areas where I was involved, the administration's greatest accomplishment was the fundamental shift in federal energy policy put in place from 1981 to 1983. We deregulated the price of oil, abolished the Synthetic Fuels Corporation, eliminated numerous Department of Energy projects and subsidy schemes, and accelerated the development of a Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Advocates of a centrally planned energy economy lost the public debate after a decade of dominance.

If the Reagan administration has experienced a miserable failure, it has to be in farm policy. We went from less than $9 billion in spending on farm programs in 1981 to a nearly incomprehensible $26 billion in 1985. Even worse, we went from a federal farm program in which modest numbers of farmers participated to one with total federal dominance of the farm sector of our economy and 100 percent participation.

Paul Craig Roberts, assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy, 1981-82.

The administration's most important economic policy accomplishment during my tenure - the tax cut of 1981 - had already picked up considerable momentum by the time President Reagan was inaugurated.

My greatest accomplishment was to prevent the President from flip-flopping immediately afterward. Within a week of signing the tax cuts, David Stockman and Larry Kudlow were trying to get the President to turn around and come out for tax increases in the State of the Union message. That would have been disastrous, not just for the economy but for the President's political fortunes.

My greatest disappointment was the administration's failure to hold the Federal Reserve accountable for the deficit. Today many traditional Republicans believe that the administration caused the deficit by cutting taxes and refusing to cut spending. The truth is that the administration did cut spending very successfully back in 1981, but the sudden and unforeseen collapse of inflation turned what had been real cuts into real increases.

Ralph L. Stanley, special assistant for policy to Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis; assistant to Chief of Staff James Baker III; chief of staff to Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole; administrator of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration; executive director of the White House Conference on Small Business.

The budget debate allowed me to implement a program of privatization in urban transportation that has become a major policy movement. The merits of privatization as a means of governing, as a way to deliver a good or service to an area of constituency, holds great promise for conservatives in the future. One cannot merely say ``the private sector will do it,'' but rather one must show how that can be induced.

My single greatest disappointment was the inability to engage the Congress, whether a Republican Senate or a Democratic House, in a substantive policy debate on urban mobility.

The federal mass transit program has spent $43 billion in 20 years and the number of people using mass transit has declined. That in itself is a perfect indication that the federal program was not achieving its policy goals. Urban mobility remains a problem in our nation's cities, and despite the obvious need for reform, no real policy review was initiated by the legislative branch. It is an example of the current ossification in Washington.

James Watt, secretary of the interior, 1981-83.

With the help of career people, we were able to put in programs reflecting our conservative philosophy. We instilled an attitude of stewardship toward public lands. The liberal policy on public lands is to ``take care'' of the land and natural resources already in the federal estate. As a result of our stewardship, the national parks, wilderness areas, timberlands, and coastal lands are all better managed and in better condition than they were in 1980.

My biggest shock in Washington was the lack of integrity in many members of Congress. I never realized there would be so much intentional distortion and disinformation among elected officials. Democrats and Republicans alike would promise you they would vote one way and then do just the opposite.

Murray L. Weidenbaum, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, 1981-82. Mr. Weidenbaum is now director of the Center for the Study of American Business at Washington University in St. Louis.

The initial accomplishments of regulatory reform - reversing the ``midnight'' regulations pushed through by the outgoing Carter administration, setting up a continuing mechanism for regulatory review within the executive office of the president, and increasing the use of benefit/cost tests - are actions for which many of us can take real pride.

The years since January 1981 represent the first extended period in several decades in which no new regulatory agency was set up and no major new regulatory program was established.

Surely my single greatest disappointment was the failure to slow the growth of federal spending sufficiently to match the tax cuts of 1981. In that regard, there is more than enough blame to go around. Nevertheless, I remain a firm supporter of those landmark tax rate reductions. It is the wasteful, low priority, or postponable expenditures - present in every department and agency - that deserve to be eliminated or at least reduced substantially in order to reduce the awesome budget deficits.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to The view from inside. Some key Reagan revolutionaries assess their accomplishments in office
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today