Former Michigan congressman and budget director for the Reagan administration Stockman (The Triumph of Politics: The Inside Story of the Reagan Revolution, 1986) tells “the real story [of]…how the nation's conservative party fostered the great fiscal breakdown now upon the land, and got away with it.”
The author laments the failure of officials to permit the financial collapse of 2008 to run its course. “Had this attack been allowed,” he writes, “hundreds of billions in long-term debt and equity capital that underpinned the Wall Street–based speculation machines would have been wiped out.” It also would have “implanted an abiding 1930s style generational lesson about the deadly dangers of leveraged speculation.” The author insists that such an outcome would have been “a good thing” as well as “profoundly therapeutic,” but Stockman fails to offer convincing refutation of the argument that things would have gotten out of control. He chastises Bernanke, Geithner, Paulson and others as agents for Wall Street's financial power, but the author's narrow focus on finance does not adequately address the real threat of a plunge into a depression worse than that of the 1930s. However, Stockman performs a real service when he debunks the myths that have been associated with Reagan's conservatism and promotes Eisenhower's fiscal and military conservatism. Two such myths, which provide the framework for this massive work, are specifically highlighted. First is his analysis of “where the Reagan Revolution's fiscal math hit the shoals,” leaving a legacy of permanent “massive deficit finance” and the legend that “deficits didn't matter.” Second, he traces the roots of perennial deficits back to Roosevelt's decision to take the country off the gold standard in 1933 and Nixon's ending of the dollar-to-gold convertibility in 1971.
Stockman forcefully conveys enormous amounts of knowledge, but some assertions will be found to be contentious.