The Reagan Years
As my family will tell you I am very reluctant to discuss these 8 years as an economic consultant to the White House where I wrote Macroeconomic White Papers.
How does something like this happen? Well in 1979 I was asked by a local representative Benny Benvenuto if I wanted to be part of the Reagan election effort in 1980. My job? Simple…go around and explain Supply Side Economics to the populace. An easy assignment for someone who at the time had taught the very same in graduate school for about five years. I enjoyed the assignment and did it well and of course The Reagan presidency began. Immediately after the inauguration in 1981 I was asked to stay on writing White Papers focusing on Macroeconomic solutions and at that time we had lots to choose from. There was an issue though. I was already employed for a Defense contractor making globs of money at that time. So we agreed that I would remain in my current position, take no compensation for the White House assignment ( no double dipping as they say) as long as I could be at meetings in DC when asked. Since I had lots of sick and vacation time this too was not a problem and at the time I lived in Connecticut and we had sort of an airplane taxi system from NYC to DC and back again….The Trump shuttle I think it was called. So the logistics all worked out for the very best.
My major contributions are again something I do not enjoy discussing because of the idiocy of the politics that occurred.
1. I wrote major portions of what became the Kemp-Roth tax cut, the largest tax cut in our history. When I read the act I was appalled to see my work copied verbatim (spelling and grammar errors included) keeping in mind that the software of that time was weak in checking grammar and spelling. When I confronted Jack Kemp he of course denied it and told me to just move on. Move on? I wanted to mangle his pretty haircut and him as well. He refused to give me credit and I was actually admonished by the politicians (of my own party) to shut up or get out. Maybe it had something to do with my threatening a lawsuit.
There came a number of times in the future where I would be face to face with Kemp (example – Firing Line) and would always torment him off the air about his lack of character and integrity.
2. In 1986 the Senate finance committee rejected by one vote (in the 86 elections the Senate went Democratic) my best creation…the income tax on a postcard. What a great idea and a family of four with a total household income of $32k did not pay income taxes, if my memory is correct.
3. Bringing down the Evil Empire. My colleagues won this assignment which advocated a bold up (or what seemed to be a buildup of arms) in order to drive the Soviet Union into massive spending and thus national bankruptcy and a fallen leadership. I opted to flood the market with rubles to destroy the value of their currency which then falls the nation next.
4. One of my proudest suggestions, which was 30 years before its time was my suggestion to create the Marshall Plan for Energy Independence in 1983. My suggestion was to fund about 12,000 top energy scientists at Groom Lake for a period of 5 years. Why Groom Lake? Because of the special lightweight metal like substances that are also extremely solid and perfect for a lighter weight framed auto. My overall idea? The creation of Hydrogen cell engines. Why Hydrogen? Am I just way ahead of my time? Well in all honesty I know little about energy and just knew that hydrogen was the most abundant chemical on earth. I’m afraid that when I presented this white paper I received many more laughs and jeers and insanity claims than I did accolades. Thus the nature of politics.
5. The Gold Standard. Although not a gold bug purist I can certainly understand the rationale for returning to some standard. However President Reagan put my buddy (NOT) Jack Kemp in charge of the gold standard committee. Well never put an egomaniac in charge of anything except their own ego. Kemp had one goal and that was to ram his version of the gold standard down the throats of the committee. So my white paper explored other options and pointed out that our monetary system of a gold standard should not be left in the hands of Russia and South Africa, the two leading gold mining producer nations. So given that little roadblock I created what I referred to as a metallic standard which included a list of metals and their weights and values as part of the overall metallic standard. Again with the quarterback in charge my white paper went nowhere.
There were other issues and conversations that I shall leave alone because their revelations would at a minimum have you think me insane.
Finally, the people I met, wined and dined with were amazing and very interesting and very loose with the tongue as the drinks began to pile up. However some of my favorites were:
Charles Lindbergh Jr.
General Curtis Le May
Senator Barry Goldwater
William F. Buckley
And my all time favorite, to name a few….Secretary of Transportation (at that time) Elizabeth Hanford Dole. (I believe she was single at that time)
From all the above came one of the proudest moments of my professional career. In 1985 President Reagan rewarded my efforts and nominated me to be Under-Secretary of the Treasury. My family and friends remember the background checks and interview process all too well. And yes there are men in black. They came to interview me at my place of work for over 4 hours. They wore black suits and of course sun glasses. And they worked for the NSA…the National Security Agency who makes the CIA look like a comic book.
I had to have three top recommendations…one form a noted local person, one from the State and one from the Feds.
Benny Benvenuto was my local supporter, then Congressman and later Governor John Rowland was my state level recommendation and my Federal level was a personal phone call to the White House from Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole.
My interview was somewhat amusing. The first question was this….How do I feel about Connecticut Senator Lowell Weicker a very liberal Republican Senator from Connecticut. Anyway everything went great so it was just a matter of time before the offer would be forthcoming in writing. It never came. I called Benny Benvenuto and asked what happened. About a week later the White House got back to him and notified him that because of the recently passed Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget Amendment the Treasury Department had agreed to reduce from 12 to 3 the number of Under-Secretary positions… and yes one of the eliminated positions was mine.
I ran for public office twice and lost both times. After the White House years I worked for Governor Candidates as an economic advisor to Dick Bozzuto and Jerry Labriola. I also served as chief economist to Jerry Labriola’s Senate attempt vs. Joe Lieberman. But I had lost the fire and wanted to get out of the game. I felt dirty and could not play by the rules of the political leaders or hacks. I left and never looked back except to admire so very much what a great man, a great leader and a respected historic figure that I had the pleasure to work for. President Ronald Reagan was once my boss. I mean how thrilling and how great is that!