Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sorry, RJSamuelson, Carter Appointed Volcker, Not Reagan

In today's Washington Post, Robert J. Samuelson wants to praise Paul Volcker and his new effort to get people to trust government.  Fair enough and OK so far, but he proceeds to descend into a massive string of nonsense.  Dean Baker has already dumped on this column, http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/robert-samuelson-says-that-apple-has-more-lines-of-business-than-it-can-reasonably-manage , wherein he notes that RJS thinks the US government has taken on too  many responsibilities, and also fails to note that other nations had falling inflation rates when Volcker was doing his Fed Chair thing, not to mention that real growth after he did so was not nearly as impressive as many have been led to believe. 

However, I think there is more to pound him on in this column, particularly an over-the-top hero worship of Reagan, who is identified as being the man solely responsible for the virtuous things Volcker did, particularly battling inflation. RJS's killer line is, "Volcker was supported by Ronald Reagan; no other plausibe president, Republican or Democrat, would have permitted Volcker to continue austerity until it achieved its goal."  He later bloviates about "the Volcker/Reagan victory over  inflation" and "the triumph of Volcker and Reagan in the 1980s."

Well, allow me to beg to differ.  There certainly was another plausible such president, the man who appointed Volcker in the first place in 1979 and who stood by as Volcker initiated his tight money policies, which played a major role in Carter's inability to get reelected.  There is no reason whatsoever to believe that Carter would not have continued this support, but RJS does not mention the wimp afraid of rabbits in boats once, so busy is he with this orgy of praise of Reagan.

Some might say that the counterfactual of Carter winning in 1980 was nonsense.  But up until the first debate when despite winning on the points, Reagan won the debate with that delightful little phrase, "there you go again," it was very close. Indeed, if the Iran-hostage rescue mission had succeeded, and Reagan had not said his little phrase, Carter might have won.  In April, 2008, he was far ahead of Reagan in the polls just after RR declared that "trees cause pollution."

Even for what RJS thinks Reagan was so great for, Carter did more than Reagan.  The only government agency RR eliminated was the 10-person Council on Wage and Price Stability (CWPS), which was just an advisory board anyway.  Carter eliminated the Civil Aeronautics Board, deregulating the airline industry.  And it was tough guy Carter who boycotted the Moscow Olympics after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and started supplying jihadist rebels with arms against them.

Curiously, the one extra thing Reagan did was to bust the unions, particularly the PATCO strike.  Ironically, if Carter had been elected, they might not have struck.  They had supported Reagan in the election and apparently thought he would be nice to them. Wrong.

For a long list of not so admirable things Reagan did as president that his fan club conveniently ignores, see http://prorev.com/reagan.htm .


marcel said...

Didn't trucking dereg also begin under Carter (and Alfred Kahn)?

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Began, but was not finalized until the Clinton administration when the ICC was eliminated.

ProGrowthLiberal said...

It is worse than even you potray. Reagan with his Laugher fiscal stimulus and Volcker were in a tug of war. The truth is that Volcker was easy back on his first bout of tight money in late 1980. But when he saw the Kemp-Roth tax cut, he decided to offset it with an unfortunate venegance leading to the massive 1982 recession. And this mix fiscal stimulus and tight money led to that massive dollar appreciation which incredibly lowered net exports, which of course made the tight money even more effective at crushing the economy in 1982. If Robert J. Samuelson thinks Volcker and Reagan worked together - then he is even more clueless than I had ever imagined.