David Stockman, the aging boy wonder who was Ronald Reagan’s budget director at 34, wrote a 2700-word op-ed piece in Sunday’s New York Times. Its bottom line was “get out of the markets and hide out in cash.” Stockman takes us on quite a journey to get to this simple point. He tells a tawdry story, peopled with many scoundrels and few heroes, an eight-decade morality play of government excess, corporate greed, entitlement explosion, political cowardice and intellectual dishonesty, in which the losers are the 99% of Americans, and especially the poor, while the winners, at least for now, are the greedy manipulators of finance and their bi-partisan henchmen in Congress, the oval office and, above all, the Federal Reserve Bank. It’s a relentless, depressing march to Armageddon – one that is actually part of a long American tradition of populist anger that stretches from the Whiskey Rebellion to the Tea Party. Sometimes the issues change: in the 1890s the insurgents wanted cheap money; Stockman (and the Doctors Paul) want a return to the gold standard. Its twin villains are Washington and Wall Street. Its solutions are less clear: “These policies have brought America to an end-stage metastasis,” writes Stockman. “The way out would be so radical it can’t happen.”
From a curmudgeonly conservative, this is a disquietingly bi-partisan indictment. Stockman challenges the core policies of both parties, and his analysis of a country whose answer to everything is, as George Bush urged, to “go shopping” is too insightful to be dismissed.