Magazine May 3, 2010, Issue

Goodbye, Supply-Side

President Ronald Reagan on the south lawn of the White House, April 25, 1986 (Joe Marquette/Reuters)
An elegy for economic happy talk

There are two schools of thought about the Reagan tax cuts. The conventional conservative view: They spurred investment, entrepreneurship, and real economic growth, helping to resuscitate the post-Carter economy, and, by doing so, they paid for themselves. The conventional liberal view: They were an ill-considered product of starve-the-beast ideology and produced crippling deficits, inaugurating a new era of fiscal irresponsibility only briefly transcended during the golden years of the Clinton presidency.

Here’s a different take: They never happened.

Properly understood, there were no Reagan tax cuts. In 1980 federal spending was $590 billion and in 1989 it was $1.14 trillion; you don’t

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