THE REAGAN EXPERIMENT by John L. & Isabel V. Sawhill--Eds. Palmer


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If President Reagan was given to asking ""How'm I doin'?,"" like New York's Mayor Koch, the 27 contributors to this Urban institute study would respond, ""Not so good."" Whatever the long-term economic prospects, the short-term result of the Reagan ""counterrevolution"" is a lot of pain. Sometimes the Reaganites start with an outmoded understanding of institutional arrangements. Thus, Lester M. Salamon and Alan J. Abramson show that the Administration's plan to turn social services over to private; nonprofit groups flounders on the close relationship between such groups and the government. By depriving the groups of funds through cuts in research grants, Medicare, Title XX Social Service Block Grants, and other programs, the Administration undercuts its own avowed intentions. In other cases, Administration rhetoric has obscured deeper realities. Writing on ""Employment, Training and Economic Development,"" Marc Bendick, Jr. argues that, without government intervention, a sector of the work force is ""structurally"" disadvantaged even in prosperous times (unless unemployment drops below 5 percent, employers don't dip into the unskilled labor pool). The most successful government programs in redressing this situation--like CETA--are the ones the Administration has cut because they had little political support. The overall economic policy that is supposed to bring about prosperity has had mixed to bad results, the contributors find. The average standard of living is up slightly, but that statistic hides disparities: higher income families have benefitted from tax cuts, while lower income families and the working poor have seen their tax cuts offset by cuts in support payments (like Aid to Dependent Children), resulting in a net decline. Overall, this careful study shows that there are built-in problems in a market economy that prosperity alone will not cure; area by area (housing, education, regions, etc.), it takes expert, factual-and-analytical stock.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1982
Publisher: Urban Institute