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Short take: Reagan budget guru on the attack

  • Article by: JILL BURCUM
  • Star Tribune
  • April 25, 2011 - 9:08 PM

Equal-opportunity skewering sums up a provocative piece by David Stockman over the weekend on the nation’s head-in-the-sand financial management.

Stockman, who headed the Office of Management and Budget under Ronald Reagan, wrote his opinion piece "The Bipartisan March to Fiscal Madness" for the New York Times.

It’s a chilling read in which Stockman takes Democrats and Republicans to task for avoiding this reality: In the Age of the Retiring Baby Boomer, entitlement programs such as Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid make a broad-based tax increase “unavoidable.’’

He then shreds the dueling deficit plans proposed recently by President Obama and the GOP’s Paul Ryan, whose “Path to Prosperity” has proposed replacing Medicare with  vouchers that would help seniors buy private health insurance.

Stockman accuses Obama of aggressively playing the “class warfare” card by going only the richest taxpayers and giving false assurances to the middle class that they will not have to contribute more to cover entitlements’ soaring costs.

He’s equally harsh in assessing Ryan’s plan.

“Trapped between the religion of low taxes and the reality of huge deficits, the Ryan plan appears to be an attack on the poor in order to coddle the rich. To the Democrats’ invitation to class war, the Republicans have seemingly sent an R.S.V.P.”

Stockman derides both parties’ approaches as “fiscal jabberwocky” and says financial markets are growing anxious about the nation’s inability to bring its spending and revenue into balance

Although Stockman’s had a checkered career as an investment banker since leaving public office, his perspective provides some welcome context to the simmering debate over the nation’s deficit spending.

Hard choices lie ahead. Acknowledging Stockman’s hard truths is a key step toward making those decisions intelligently.

Jill Burcum is a Star Tribune editorial writer.

 

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