Sunday, August 08, 2010

Another Stockman tells the story of his ride

Hardly anything is more iconic to Australia than the story of The Man from Snowy River, a stirring poem by Banjo Paterson. It tells the tale of a truly heroic effort by a young, gangly stockman (in America they're called cowboys) who rode hell bent for leather to corral a runaway and his herd of wild horses.

The poem starts:

There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses - he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
And the stockhorse snuffs the battle with delight.

There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,
The old man with his hair as white as snow;
But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up -
He would go wherever horse and man could go.
And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand,
No better horseman ever held the reins;
For never horse could throw him while the saddle girths would stand,
He learnt to ride while droving on the plains.

And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast,
He was something like a racehorse undersized,
With a touch of Timor pony - three parts thoroughbred at least -
And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.
He was hard and tough and wiry - just the sort that won't say die -
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

And it finishes:
The man from Snowy River is a household word today,
And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

And in between is a tale of legends.

Recently, on NPR, another stockman, David Stockman, told of his heroic ride with the Great Communicator. Who, it appears, quit communicating with the stockman when the stockman began to communicate things the Great Communicator didn't want communicated.

The David Stockman interview begins as follows:

Economist: Bush Tax Cuts Will Make U.S. Bankrupt
RAZ: In the early 1980s, Stockman became a kind of Washington wunderkind, the vanguard of a new type of economic thinking, supply side, deregulation, low taxes to stimulate growth.

As the White House budget director, Stockman was an architect of what would come to be known as Reagonomics. But a few years into the job, he became disillusioned.

Mr. DAVID STOCKMAN (Economist): He was one of the, you know, greatest human beings I've ever met.

RAZ: And he noticed a problem. The government wasn't collecting enough money to cover its costs and he started telling that to Reagan.

Mr. STOCKMAN: The military budget got out of control and the tax cuts went to special interests as much as they did to the broad public.

As time passed, he was less and less enthusiastic about what I had to say.

RAZ: So, in 1985, Stockman left. Now these days, he's still a conservative and still a Republican, but he doesn't think his party is taking a responsible position on taxes any longer. At the end of this year, the Bush era tax cuts are set to expire. Republicans want them renewed, Democrats want to keep the tax cuts for the middle class but not for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

Now, Stockman says they're both wrong and he says extending either of those cuts is tantamount to the government declaring bankruptcy.

Mr. STOCKMAN: So we're spending $3.8 trillion in defense, non-defense, entitlements, everything else, and we're taking in only 2.2 trillion. So we got a massive gap, you have to pay your bills. You can't keep borrowing from the rest of the world at that magnitude year after year after year. So, in light of all of those facts, I say we can't afford the Bush tax cuts.

RAZ: And I think many people will be surprised to hear Ronald Reagan's former budget director make this argument. I mean, what happened to the idea you once pushed that tax cuts ultimately stimulate the economy?

Mr. STOCKMAN: I think that's true. But we're in a much different world today than we were in the early 1980s. We have had a spree of debt building for the last 30 years, both in the public and in the private sector.

So in that environment, the highest priority is solvency now, not incentives for growth.

RAZ: You seem to suggest that many of our economic troubles are the result of Republican economic policies over the past few decades. You are a Republican. You are a conservative. Why do you think Republicans are largely to blame?

Mr. STOCKMAN: Because the Republicans abandoned their old-time fiscal religion in favor of two theories, which I think are now proving to be both wrong and highly counterproductive and damaging.

One was monetarism, which said let the dollar float on the international markets. Let 12 men and women at the Fed decide whether to raise or lower interest rates and use the Fed to try to run this massive economy. What they've done instead is run the printing press, they've flooded the world with dollars. The whole monetarist policy has been a mistake.

The second thing was the perversion of supply side. Yes, there was a good idea that in certain circumstances, lower tax rates will encourage economic activity and savings. But when you make it a religion, when you make it a catechism and you say you cut taxes no matter what the circumstance, what the season, what the condition, then I think the whole idea has been perverted.

By getting off track over the last 30 years, the Republican Party has basically given out its historic view that the key thing was financial discipline, financial responsibility and that we had to live within our means. Today, we have two free lunch parties, and as a result, we're borrowing ourselves into grave danger with each passing month and year.

Guambat wishes Stockman was as great a communicator as Mr. Reagan. The information in the interview is most interesting, and you should go read it, but, unfortunately, Mr. Stockman doesn't have the vast PR backing that Mr. Reagan had, nor the screen charisma. Regretfully, it does not appear his fellow stockmen will be retelling his tale.

Let alone learn anything from it.

See Paul B. Farrell's take on Stockman's message here: Reagan insider: 'GOP destroyed U.S. economy'



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