Saturday, September 15, 2007

greenspan on spendthrifts

Bob Woodward today writes about a new book by former long-time Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World", Greenspan's memoirs. Woodward's review makes the book sound interesting - but a couple of Greenspan's comments caught my eye.

First, Greenspan has some commentary about some of the presidents he's seen. One set of presidents were spendthrift, refusing to use their power to reign in out-of-control Congressional spending. They acted as if deficits didn't matter.

Another president came into office facing a huge deficit of another president's making, and did a fine job of cutting it back, absorbing the information and details and taking the job seriously, coming up with an economic plan that Greenspan called an "act of political courage."

The spendthrifts? Republican icon Ronald Reagan and our current disaster-in-chief, de facto President George W. Bush (who's VP Cheney has actually said "deficits don't matter any more").

The serious guy? Democrat Bill Clinton, about whom Greenspan writes "The hard truth was that Reagan had borrowed from Clinton, and Clinton was having to pay it back. I was impressed that he did not seem to be trying to fudge reality to the extent politicians ordinarily do. He was forcing himself to live in the real world."

The real world. Sigh. Remember when presidents lived in the real world? It wasn't so long ago, and it would still be so today but for flawed ballot designs in Palm Beach, the suppression of Democratic voters in Florida, and a 5-4 Supreme Court coup d'etat.

But still, Greenspan managed to condemn Democrats for rampant spending. Oh well, I guess old habits are hard to break. But I give him credit for praising Clinton and slamming Reagan and Baby Bush.


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