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Murray Weidenbaum Center on the Economy
Government, and Public Policy

Making Economic Policy, 1981-82

by Murray Weidenbaum

A Memoir

U'ashirigton University in Stlnuis


Murray Weidenbaum Center on the Economy,
Government, and Public Policy

Making Economic Policy, 1981-82

by Murray Weidenbaum
A Memoir

June 2005

W Washington University in St.lDuis

The Murray Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government,
and Public Policy is a research center at Washington University in St.
Louis that supports scholarly research, public programs, and other ac­
tivities in public affairs. The Center sponsors both in-depth discussions
of important policy issues and leading edge research in economics, po­
litical science, and public affairs. Funding for the Center (a 501 (c)(3)
organization) comes from foundations, businesses, private citizens, and
its endowment. For more information on supporting the Center, contact
Melinda Warren, Director of the Weidenbaum Center Forum.
Weidenbaum Center
Washington University
Campus Box 1027
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
phone: (314)935-5630
fax: (314)935-5688

©Copyright 2005 by the Murray Weidenbaum Center on the Economy,
Government, and Public Policy

Table of Contents


Joining the Reagan Administration


Developing the Administration’s Economic Forecast


Presentations, Testimony, and Speechifying


The Day-to-Day Routine


Briefing the President


The CEA and Its Staff


The Inevitable Letdown


Some Personal Thoughts









Murray Weidenbaum is one of America’s treasures. He is a great
friend. He also is a model for me and many others. Murray has dedicated
himself to articulating and applying sound economic principles in both schol­
arly and governmental arenas. He always has done so with unmatched
expertise, clarity, and grace.
Murray has written a beautiful memoir of his years in the adminis­
tration of President Ronald Reagan. Murray served as President Reagan’s
first chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and, after leaving that
post in 1982, continued to serve on the President’s Economic Policy Advi­
sory Board. This is a wonderful personal account of his experience, one
that shows Murray’s commitment to public service and his great sense of
This memoir hardly exhausts the story of Murray’s public service.
Throughout his career, Murray has advised presidents and other policy
makers. Highlights include service as Assistant Secretary of the Trea­
sury for Economic Policy in the Nixon administration, fiscal economist at
the Bureau of the Budget in the Truman administration, and chair of the
U.S. Trade Deficit Review Commission. Murray’s talents have placed
him in demand for the boards of corporations and think tanks and for
speaking and writing on a wide range of public policy problems.
Moreover, Murray’s public service extends to his written work. His
insights fill the pages of eight books and hundreds of articles. His text,
Business and Government in the Global Marketplace, is now in its
seventh edition. The Bamboo Network was a finalist for the 1996 global
business book of the year and Small Wars, Big Defense was the out­
standing economics book of 1992. This body of work will inform students
of public policy for decades to come.
For Murray and the Center, I thank Martin Anderson, his colleague
from the Nixon and Reagan administrations and now at theHoover Insti­
tution, for urging Murray to write this memoir. We also thank Christine
Moseley of the Center staff for managing the project.
It is an honor to direct the research center created, nurtured, and
now named after Murray. It is a special pleasure to play a small role in
publishing this memoir.
Steven S. Smith, Director,
Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy
and Kate M. Gregg Professor of Social Sciences
Washington University in St. Louis




Making Economic Policy, 1981-82
by Murray Weidenbaum

Ronald Reagan was fond of quoting Thomas Carlyle, the 19th cen­
tury British writer, who referred to economics as “the dismal science.” I
have a picture with the President and Mrs. Reagan on which he added a
teasing note thanking me for “explaining the ‘dismal science’to Nancy.”
Working for President Reagan turned out to be anything but dismal.
This memoir on my WTiite House experiences will substantiate that.
I write this with the clear knowledge that few if any decisions in
government policy — be they labeled economic or social or foreign
affairs — are made solely or even primarily on the basis of economic
analysis or information from economists. Yet I also came away with the
experience that most questions of governmental policymaking— espe­
cially those labeled “non-economic” — do contain important economic
aspects and can involve economists in their solution.
As the old saying put it, “Economics is what economists do.” Based
on my service as chairman of President Reagan’s Council of Economic
Advisers from January 1981 to August 1982,1would conclude that the
role varies substantially over time and that it is a changing blend of par­
ticipation in policymaking and preaching economic doctrine, both within
the government and to the public.
It would be pleasant to report that those who disagreed with me
were generally wrong. If pressed, I might be willing to provide some

Murray Weidenbaum holds the Mallinckrodt Distinguished University
Professorship at Washington University in St. Louis, where he also serves
as honorary chairman of the Murray Weidenbaum Center on the
Economy, Government, and Public Policy. He is indebted to Dr. Martin
Anderson of the Hoover Institution of Stanford University for goading
him into writing this memoir and for providing helpful comments on an
early draft. Professor Michael Boskin of Stanford University also
provided useful suggestions.


factual buttressing for that position. Nevertheless, such self-serving state­
ments would not be helpful to the reader. Instead, I have tried— albeit
likely not with total success— to avoid writing the modem day equiva­
lent of “An Impartial History of the Civil War as Reported by William
Tecumseh Sherman.”
One procedural note: I kept no diary at the time and sent my
official papers to the National Archives. As a result, what follows relies
heavily on my memory as well as contemporaneous newspaper accounts,
public documents, and the published writings of other participants.
In early January 1981, when rumors were circulating about my
pending appointment as chairman of President Reagan’s Council of Eco­
nomic Advisers, I described myself as “an applied, policy-oriented
economist” who advocated a three-pronged approach to dealing with
the economy’s problems: tax cuts, spending cuts, and regulatory re­
form. 1 That turned out to be one of my better forecasts of future public
policy (as well as my own role).
I expected that I might be asked to serve in the new
administration in some capacity. I had had an active
role in both the 1980presidential election campaign and
in the transition period between the November election
and the President s inauguration.

As a practical matter, I expected that I might be asked to serve in
the new administration in some capacity. I had had an active role in both
the 1980 presidential election campaign and in the transition period be­
tween the November election and the President’s inauguration on Janu­
ary 21,1981. During the campaign, I chaired a small advisory commit­
tee on regulatory reform that provided ideas and advice and I also did
some chores including answering a bit of the voluminous correspon­
dence the candidate was receiving. During the period between the
November election and the January inauguration, I chaired a larger and
more influential transition task force on government regulation. That
was a high-powered group. Members included future Supreme Court
Justice Antonin Scalia, future budget director James Miller, future So­
licitor General Charles Fried, future Nobel laureate James Buchanan,


and two members who would serve on the Council of Economic Advis­
ers — William Niskanen and Thomas Moore. Many of our recommen­
dations were implemented by the incoming administration.2
I also participated in the key policy group, the Coordinating Com­
mittee on Economic Policy (chaired by former Secretary of the Treasury
— and future Secretary of State — George Shultz).
Soon after the 1980 election, the Coordinating Committee met in
Los Angeles for three days (November 14-16) to put together a com­
prehensive economic strategy for consideration by the President-elect.
The committee report covered budget, tax, regulatory, monetary, and
energy policies.3 To my pleasant surprise, Governor Reagan spent the
full third day with us going over the details of our recommendations (I
had expected that, after thanking us for our work, he would hand the
two big loose-leaf books to an assistant and leave the meeting). Each
member of the committee had the opportunity to interact directly with
the President-elect. In this first encounter, I quickly realized that, in
addition to being a well-known movie actor, for eight years Mr. Reagan
had been the successful governor of the nation’s most populous state.
During a break in the three-day meeting, a member of the transi­
tion team told me that they would like me to join the incoming adminis­
tration. Having already served in Washington on several previous occa­
sions, I replied that the election of Ronald Reagan was itself adequate
reward for my endeavors. When he persisted, I indicated that I would
be interested in being chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers
(CEA). The response was to mention several openings of “real power”
such as Deputy Secretary of several key departments. When it became
clear that I “just” wanted the CEA slot, he said OK and I returned to the
meeting. After that, I was in close touch with an old friend who had
been heavily involved in the campaign, Martin Anderson. He kept me
informed of developments on the personnel front.
On the day before the inauguration, I met with Ronald Reagan in
the Blair House (he was using the facility located across the street from
the White House for distinguished visitors). He offered me the CEA
post and I quickly accepted.


Joining the Reagan Administration
On the morning of January 23, President Reagan formally pre­
sented me to the Cabinet and, as I would in the future, I took a chair
next to now domestic policy adviser Martin Anderson (see photo). Later
that morning, the President introduced me to the Washington press corps
as his CEA chairman. He went on to say, “He’s one of the country’s
most distinguished economists... he had advised me economically for
over five years. Now, a good share of that time he didn’t know he was
advising me, but I was following his writings and his utterances and many
times referred to them in my own weekly radio broadcasts .. . I ’m
looking forward with great eagerness to having him now as my chief
Economic Adviser and the Chairman of the Economic Council.”4
It was a great way for someone who started as a peon in the Truman
Budget Bureau to return to Washington. It particularly was an exciting
time to join the President’s staff. As one experienced Washington re­
porter wrote, “Economic Problems Dominate Activities of New Presi­
Later that day, I joined the President and other key administration
officials in lunching with Paul Volcker, the chairman of the Federal Re­
serve System. Much of the initial discussion was social, focusing espe­
cially on Volcker’s love of fishing. After a while, I broke the ice by
saying something like, “I hope it’s OK to talk a bit about monetary policy.”
As an old Washington hand, I had learned how to
entertain tricky questions, rather than directly answering

There was no formal agenda. However, I helped steer the discus­
sion to cover the notion that the independence of the Federal Reserve
System was important to the administration. I felt impelled to do that to
end what the New York Times called “. . . a long period of political
sniping between Mr. Volcker and the Reagan camp.”6
In the early afternoon, I held my first White House press confer­
ence. Early on, I was asked about the meeting with Volcker. Using
standard Washington jargon, I described it as “a very useful, construc­
tive undertaking in which the President reaffirmed his strong commit-


Courtesy Ronald Reagan Library

President Reagan presenting his CEA chairman to the Cabinet.

ment to the independence o f the Federal Reserve System." I took pains
to underscore the positive nature o f the meeting. I also reported that the
meeting produced “a strong concurrence o f viewpoints on the need for
expenditure restraint to reduce underlying inflation."'
As an old Washington hand, 1 had learned how to entertain tricky
questions, rather than directly answering them (prior to my first Wash­
ington press conference in 1969, a veteran D.C. journalist advised me
that there were no presumptuous questions, only presumptuous answers).
When asked about any discussion o f interest rates, I responded, “ I
wouldn’t want to bore you with those details." Experienced Washing­
ton reporters did not expect me to provide a more specific answer, but
there is no harm in their trying.
In response to an implicit criticism o f President Reagan for not
being able to find his own checkbook, 1got a laugh by stating (quite
accurately) that 1 personally delegated the task to my wife. Later
during the press session, 1 was asked why my appointm ent was not
made earlier. 1 used a response suggested by press secretary James
Brady: it took a considerable am ount o f time for the President to
select handsome Republican economists (the official transcript follows


with the word “laughter”).
When pressed for details about the impending budget cuts, I quoted
President Harry Truman, “There isn’t a budget that can’t be cut,” and
noted that the Carter Administration bequeathed a budget that surely
could be cut. I concluded the press conference with a statement that
turned out to be a fairly good description of my agenda for the period
This Administration is truly embarked on a long-term effort to
reduce the size and burden of government in this country in all
of its dimensions — taxes, expenditures, and regulation —
and that will free up the energies of the private sector to once
again become the major engine of economic growth and
I believe that I spent most of the rest of the day at a meeting on
developing the administration’s economic forecast (more about that a
little later). The next day, January 24, the White House announced a
“high level” three-man Budget Working Group to develop major reduc­
tions in federal spending. This was clearly going to be an important part
of the Reagan Administration’s early activity. I was appointed to the
group along with Martin Anderson and budget director David Stock­
man (who served as chairman). As someone whose initial Washington
experience was with the old Budget Bureau, this new assignment was
literally a labor of love.
The meetings of the Budget Working Group and our recommen­
dations to the President were often the occasion for making key deci­
sions on many issues facing the new administration. The agenda ranged
from the size of military appropriations to the magnitude of foreign aid to
the composition of business subsidies. Marty and I quickly hit it off with
Dave, who later on wrote, “Marty Anderson and Murray Weidenbaum
had been splendid and constant allies in the cutting room. They knew an
unjustified and wasteful economic subsidy when they saw one.”9
In my public description of our effort, I frequently cited the state­
ment of a former budget director, “Good budgeting is the uniform distri­
bution of dissatisfaction.” Anderson, in turn, referred to the working
group as “a hanging jury” and he meant it as a compliment.10 About that
time, the New York Times quoted me as saying that I was “a duespaying member of the Dave Stockman fan club.”11


Courtesy Ronald Reagan Library

The Economic Team: (I to r) Murray Weidenbaum, President
Ronald Reagan, Donald Regan, and David Stockman in 1981.
The Reagan Administration maintained a fast pace in establishing
the institutions for policymaking. On January 27, a special six-member
task force on the problems facing the automobile industry was set up.
The Secretary of Transportation, Drew Lewis, served as chairman. Along
with Secretary o f the Treasury Donald Regan and three other depart­
ment heads, 1was appointed a member. Despite the chairman’s initial
statement about ours being a free trade administration, the task force
was the occasion for an early and tough battle on protectionism.
I made no bones — in public or in private — about my firm oppo­
sition to restraints on imports, automobile or otherwise. When Barron s
asked me for an alternative approach, 1took a hard line:
It’s not the government’s fault that the productivity in the Japa­
nese auto industry is much higher than in the American auto
industry. That’s a problem to be faced by the industry.12
The former business executives on the committee responded that
they shared my views on tree trade but that the situation did not justify a


“do nothing” response. Thus, we free traders did not really prevail. The
outcome was a form of kabuki dance at the end of which the Japanese
adopted “voluntary” restraints on imports to the United States by the
major Japanese auto manufacturers. However, I used the deliberations
of the task force to push successfully for giving special emphasis to re­
ducing the regulatory burdens imposed on the automobile industry. This
was a common high ground that obtained unanimous support and a va­
riety of regulatory reforms ensued.
The next day, January 28, nearly 200 “midnight regulations” pro­
mulgated by the outgoing Carter Administration were suspended for 60
days. A one-year moratorium on new regulations was a key recom­
mendation of our transition task force on regulatory reform and this was
a gratifying initial response. To review these and other regulatory issues,
the President created a new task force on regulatory relief, chaired by
Vice President George H. W. Bush; the CEA chairman was an active
member (see photo). The staff director was James Miller whom I had
recommended to the transition staff when I indicated that I did not want
to be the regulatory czar.
On the same day, the first formal briefing on the new Reagan bud­
get took place in the Oval Office with President Reagan, Dave Stock­
man, Treasury Secretary Don Regan, Marty Anderson, and me. The
pace was hectic but, to put it mildly, exhilarating.

Developing the Administration’s Economic Forecast
No members of any presidential administration are always of one
mind. From the outset, I seemed to be locked in combat with a combi­
nation of supply-siders and monetarists who had been working on de­
veloping the economic assumptions that would underlie the President’s
new economic proposals. They were advocating a set of economic
forecasts that I considered to be internally inconsistent as well as too
optimistic. This was taken by them as my failure to believe in the
President’s program. However, I did not view the issue in such theo­
logical terms.
OMB Director David Stockman described my entrance into the
deliberations on the economic assumptions somewhat colorfully:
“Weidenbaum was the picture of the rumpled economist. He had one
virtue extremely uncommon among his breed: he spoke in short, English


Informal meeting with Vice President George Bush and Chief o f
Staff James Baker.
sentences.” 13 Stockman also noted my initial reaction to the supplyside/monetarist consensus: “We’ll be the laughing stock o f the world.” 14
As he described the process, thus began a one-week march toward
The administration’s supply-siders, at the Treasury and OMB, ad­
vocated forecasts o f strong real grow th — to show that the
administration’s tax cuts were working. Simultaneously, the monetar­
ists, mainly at Treasury, projected low inflation — to demonstrate the
effectiveness o f monetary restraint. In a strange alliance, the combined
group agreed on projections o f simultaneously very rapid growth and
low inflation. In my view, the necessary monetary restraint was likely to
generate a short decline in the economy before the economic benefits of
the tax cuts became effective.
The driving force for a decision on the economic assumptions was
the need to base the new budget proposals on an administration eco­
nomic forecast. To break the deadlock, on February 7 Stockman and I
jointly agreed on a set o f numbers that we could live with but which
pleased none o f us. We made what Stockman later described — fairly
and accurately — as “the worst possible bargain.” 15
I agreed to keep the real growth rate “reasonably high” and he


went along with my relatively high inflation forecast; such a combination
would minimize future budget deficits. When we subsequently presented
the results to the forecasting group, I was quickly challenged about the
model used. My response was to slap my belly and say, “It came right
out of here.” In Stockman’s words, “Eventually it would become the
belly-slap that was heard around the world”16— a bit of overstatement,
of course, but the point held.
Technically, one shortcoming of our numbers was apparent to careful
analysts: the combination of high growth and high inflation implied an
unusually large increase in velocity (the link between the money supply
and the level of economic activity). I typically responded by attempting
to finesse the question. Actually, the velocity of the money supply did
rise during this period, but more modestly than was implied in our pro­
The record shows that the Federal Reserve’s policy of monetary
restraint— which the administration repeatedly endorsed— reduced
inflation more rapidly than we had projected. Using the price index
associated with the gross domestic product, the inflation rate declined
from 9-1/2 percent in 1981 to 6 percent in 1982 and to 4 percent in
1983 (our original forecast for 1983 inflation was 6 percent). Real eco­
nomic growth declined from 2-1/2 percent in 1981 to a negative 2 per­
cent in 1982 before rebounding to 4-1/2 percent in 1983 (compared to
our estimate of 5 percent for that year). Hindsight tells us that our fore­
casts were in the right direction, but won no awards for pinpoint accu­
racy (to state the matter rather generously).

Presentations, Testimony, and Speechifying
My various assignments from the President left little time to pre­
pare for my testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, which
was charged with recommending to the Senate whether or not I should
be confirmed. Following standard procedures, I made a number of
“courtesy” calls on members of the committee, giving them an opportu­
nity to quiz me informally prior to the formal hearing. Because of my
past activities in Washington, I frequently wound up introducing to the
Senators the White House liaison who was assigned to squire me around
Capitol Hill.
The pace of other activities prevented me from making the elabo­


rate preparations that customarily preceded the actual testimony. Nev­
ertheless, the hearing was off to a good start because of very generous
opening statements by the two Senators from Missouri. Democrat Tho­
mas Eagleton began by describing me as “one of the stellar economists
of our age.” Republican John Danforth responded by describing me as
“a first-rate person, a first-rate mind.”17
I presented no opening statement and attended the February 5
hearing without staff or a pile of backup documents. I decided to live off
the intellectual capital I had generated over the years. Then again, I may
have been impelled to do so by the modest staff the CEA had available.
I truly believed that, if I did not know more about the details of
economic policy than the members of the committee, I was the wrong
person for the job. Not being distracted by a pile of papers on the table,
I simply looked directly at each Senator as they took turns questioning
me. Judging by the 95-0 vote confirming me, this relatively relaxed
approach worked, at least for me.
I opposed both formal wage and price controls as well as
government “jawboning'’ on wage and price decisions.
I used the occasion to make some basic points on public policy.
The Washington Post noted that I linked the proposed tax cuts “more
forcefully” with spending cuts than other administration economic offi­
cials. For me, it was not an either/or issue. The Post quoted me —
quite accurately— as saying, “I see the compelling need for large acrossthe-board tax cuts... accompanied by a vigorous program of expendi­
ture cuts.”18
Trying to avoid taking doctrinaire positions, I made it clear that I
opposed restraints on international trade. Yet I warned that “free trade
can’t be a one-way street.” I called attention to the trade barriers erected
by other countries: “I don’t think we can blithely follow a position of
free trade without encouraging our trading partners to do the same.”19
In addition, I opposed both formal wage and price controls as well
as government “jawboning” on wage and price decisions. Concerning
the idea of using jawboning, I noted that Samson was the last person to
use that instrument with any effectiveness— but stopping short of my
usual wisecrack that he used the jawbone of an ass. February 5 was


just the first of what seemed to be an endless array of appearances
before a wide variety of House and Senate committees and subcommit­
Not all of my presentations, public or private, were resounding
successes. My talk the next day to the convention of the Consumer
Federation of America, according to the Washington Star, “was re­
ceived with less than overwhelming enthusiasm.” My opening gambit of
addressing the audience as My Fellow Consumers brought “mostly stony
silence.”21 I did receive a “little applause” when I assured the group that
the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would not be dis­
As an indication of the hectic pace I was following, the CEA staff
hosted a birthday party for me on February 11. The notice stated that
my birthday actually was the previous day “but he didn’t have time to
celebrate!” As I recall, the icing on the cake showed me on roller skates
shuttling between the White House and the adjacent Executive Office
Building (where the CEA was housed).
February 12,1981 was another important day in the development
of the Reagan economic program. The President, in a speech about the
economy on February 5, had referred to a comprehensive audit of the
nation’s economic condition. That assignment was a bit too political for
the staff of the CEA (the economists were mainly academics appointed
by my predecessor and were on temporary assignment finishing their
terms of service). Under the circumstances, I did the audit myself. On
February 12, the President released the Audit o f the U.S. Economy in
a record brief press conference of four minutes and then turned the po­
dium over to me (see photo).
The Audit report took the form primarily of a historical chart book
showing rising federal taxes as well as increasing government spending
per household, growing business failures, expanding regulatory agen­
cies, and the shift from a merchandise trade surplus to a deficit. The
report noted that it had become convenient to blame the nation’s eco­
nomic failings on factors beyond our control, such as world oil prices
and poor harvests. I did not mince words: “Such assessments are
deceiving. The basic source of most of our economic [problems] is the
past misguided policies of government itself.”22
The Audit concluded that the economic difficulties facing the na


Courtesy Ronald Reagan Library

President Reagan presenting Weidenbaum to the press.

tion would become dramatically worse without “profound— even drastic
— changes in Federal economic policies.’' I was pleased that, in writing
up the Audit report, the New York Times reported that it “bore a strong
resemblance” to the President’s speech.2'1 The Audit report was initially
controversial but the controversy evaporated when attention shifted within
a week to the President’s policy proposals.
In my opening statement at the February 12 press conference, I
said that, although the economy in the past had suffered spells o f high
inflation or high unemployment, the unique aspect of the current situation
was the simultaneous presence of both high inflation and high unemploy­
ment. Thus, a comprehensive solution aimed at the entire range of eco­
nomic ills facing the nation was required. My intent was to set the ground­
work for the President’s unveiling o f his economic program the follow­
ing week.
The reporters, o f course, used the occasion o f the press confer­
ence to try to get an advance reading o f the economic forecasts that
would accompany the President’s forthcoming economic message. A
variety o f rumors and numbers had surfaced while we were preparing
the materials. The record shows that I engaged in a bit of verbal fencing:


“If I interpret the question as ‘Shall I scoop the President?’ I will frankly
decline that opportunity.” I repeatedly stated that, when the numbers
were officially released, the press would have adequate opportunity “at
me.” That surely turned out to be the case.
On February 13,1 had a rare disagreement with Dave Stockman,
with whom I otherwise was working closely on the package of budget
cuts. While I was preparing the basic economic section of the written
version of the President’s economic program, he independently com­
missioned George Gilder, a well-known supply-side enthusiast, to write
the introduction to the economic statement. I considered Gilder’s draft,
which I dismissed as “just a supply-side primer,” not relevant to our
The “White P aper” elaborated on what I was to call
repeatedly the Four Pillars o f President Reagan s economic
program: tax cuts, spending cuts, regulatory reform, and
monetary restraint.
In its place, I wrote an explanation and justification of the Reagan
economic program. The time remaining was short and I appreciated the
assistance of then economic consultant Alan Greenspan in the effort
(Greenspan had served as CEA chair in the Ford Administration). CEA
consultant Nicholas Filippello and James Burnham, Assistant to the CEA
chairman, also ably assisted in the task. We drew upon the preparatory
work of George Shultz’s Coordinating Committee on Economic Policy.
The resultant “White Paper” earned a compliment from Presidential
Counselor Edwin Meese— to the effect that it was an outstanding work
of economic advocacy. That, of course, was precisely my aim: not to
give the nation a lesson in economics, but to advance the economic
program of the President. Nevertheless, I was needled by columnists
Rowland Evans and Robert Novak for eliminating any reference to the
term “supply side.”24
The “White Paper” elaborated on what I was to call repeatedly the
Four Pillars of President Reagan’s economic program: tax cuts, spend­
ing cuts, regulatory reform, and monetary restraint. The four mecha­
nisms were interrelated. The tax cuts were basic to achieving strong
long-term economic growth; the spending cuts would help to offset any


inflationary consequences of the tax cuts; regulatory reform would aid in
increasing the efficiency and productivity of the American economy while
also helping to curtail costs. Monetary restraint was fundamental to
squeezing out the escalating inflation that the nation was experiencing.
The combination surely constituted an ambitious economic program and
I was pleased that the CEA would be an active participant in the effort
to carry out the President’s program.
The process of preparing the speech that President Reagan was to
give on February 18, unveiling his Economic Recovery Program, pro­
vided a keen insight into his working habits and relationships. To begin
the process, the President gathered his speech writers, key White House
assistants, and policy advisers. As a group, we discussed back and
forth the key themes that he would cover. When he was satisfied that
the basic points had been developed, the speech writers were charged
with developing a rough draft. It was circulated for comment by the
other members of the group — except for the President.
The revised draft was sent to the President for his review, with the
understanding that, if he was not pleased with the product, the group
would be reassembled to start over. However, his response was posi­
tive — in the form of a rewrite in the President’s own handwriting. The
typed version was reviewed at a session the President held in his private
quarters (he loved to say he lived above the store).
President Reagan held the master copy and the group went over it
paragraph by paragraph. On several occasions I questioned the accu­
racy of a statement. He never pulled rank. His response consistently
was, “How do I make my point accurately?” This turned out to be one
example of many of why Ronald Reagan did not have to command loy­
alty; he inspired it.
During this period, a quiet but important set of weekly policy meet­
ings began. Following the custom in recent previous administrations of
both parties, the “economic Troika” became active. During the Reagan
Administration, the traditional threesome of the Treasury secretary, the
OMB director, and the CEA chairman was joined by the President’s
domestic affairs adviser (initially, Martin Anderson, a professional econo­
As Anderson subsequently wrote, during the first year of the Reagan
Administration, little happened in terms of economic policy that the Troika


plus one did not know and approve of. “Every major aspect of eco­
nomic policy— taxes, spending, deficits, deregulation, economic fore­
casts, monetary policy— was discussed here before it went to the Presi­
dent.”25 After the Troika meetings, Marty and I usually walked over
together to the morning senior staff meeting in the White House, invari­
ably arriving late.
The daily gathering of the White House senior staff constituted an­
other strategic set of meetings. These sessions were an important com­
munication device, providing a ready opportunity to raise issues and
policy questions and to push along specific matters. For example, an
administration position paper on trade policy had been drafted at one
point, emphasizing a strong free trade orientation. Although substantive
agreement had been reached by all relevant parties, the document itself
was stuck in the White House paperflow. My merely noting the delay
led to an on-the-spot decision to release this important document.
On a very different matter, one day the senior staff took up the
congressional resolution to honor the late Raoul Wallenberg by confer­
ring on him honorary U.S. citizenship. This was a rare action; the previ­
ous recipient, if I recall correctly, had been Winston Churchill. During
World War II, Wallenberg was a Swedish representative to Hungary
and, in that capacity, saved thousands of Jews from the death camps.
For unexplained reasons, he subsequently disappeared in the Soviet
prison system. James Baker, the chief of staff, who presided at the
senior staff meetings, looked my way (I was the most senior member of
the administration of the Jewish faith). I quickly nodded my agreement
with the resolution and Baker announced that the President would be
urged to sign the legislation— which he did.
On the evening of February 18, the President gave a major tele­
vised address unveiling his economic program. Simultaneously, the White
House released our “White Paper” providing the rationale and backup
numbers. During that period, Stockman, Regan, and I met with the
President who gave us our marching orders: “OK, fellows, we’ve de­
veloped the program, now we have to go out and sell it.” The three of
us spent the next several days briefing press, interest groups, senior
members of Congress, and the nation’s governors (who happened to be
meeting in Washington at the time).
For example, earlier in the day I gave a briefing at the State De­


partment to the ambassadors of the major industrialized nations. Most
of the questions centered on the international effects of the President’s
proposals. I noted that a stronger U.S. economy, in addition to gener­
ally benefiting our trading partners, would make it easier to resist pro­
tectionist pressure. Judging by the internal departmental report on the
meeting, the briefing was a success.
At a breakfast meeting in the White House the next day, Regan,
Stockman, and I briefed the White House and economics press corps
on the details of the President’s economic program. Skepticism about
the internal consistency of the economic projections was evident at that
early stage of the public debate.
In retrospect, many of my briefings in the White House to various
interest groups followed a fascinating if not humorous pattern (they did
not strike me as funny at the time). Typically, I would make a short
presentation to people representing business, labor, minorities, or local
governments, etc. This was followed by often vigorous and occasion­
ally hostile questions. At some point the President would join us. The
tone of the meeting quickly changed. When he asked for questions, the
typical response was to thank him for the visit and to toss a real softball.
However, as soon as he left, the group would resume its tough question­
ing of me!
The most effective marketing o f the Reagan economic
program was performed by President Reagan himself.

The Times of London reported on one of my public press sessions
at the time: “Under intense questioning, he admitted that he knew of no
country where such a dramatic change in economic conditions had been
achieved. . . ‘Nobody has tried this supply-side approach this way.
We are breaking new ground in the policy arena. ”’261described 1981
as the year when Americans have to take the ‘“rough medicine’of spend­
ing cuts and tight money and that, as the cuts went ahead, the economy
would grow... We are breaking the back of inflationary expectations.”27
The most effective marketing of the Reagan economic program
was performed by President Reagan himself. The lead editorial of the
Washington Star on February 23, 1981 opened by quoting me as


describing the President as “The nation’s number one economic com­
municator.”28 Indeed, he was— and that description quickly caught on.
Yet, far more fundamentally, Ronald Reagan and his ideas were
the primary force in the Reagan Administration and constantly domi­
nated our thoughts. My wife, Phyllis, provided a dramatic example in a
contemporaneous interview:
Murray got out of the car, he had just come back from getting
his yearly physical and his face was white. I thought, oh God,
the doctor’s found something wrong and then I realized he’d
heard about Reagan being shot.29
Looking back, the President’s response to that unfortunate epi­
sode was a defining moment. When he was quoted as saying to Mrs.
Reagan, “Sorry, honey, I forgot to duck,” he did more to reassure a
shocked nation than all of the medical reports. In view of the serious­
ness of the event, Ronald Reagan surely demonstrated grace under the
greatest of pressure.

The Day-to-Day Routine30
Simultaneously with the development of a host of government poli­
cies, important structural changes were taking place inside the adminis­
tration. Most of these actions reflected the collegial nature adopted by
the Reagan White House. Some did not favor this approach. For ex­
ample, former Secretary of the Treasury Donald Regan complained in
his book, “To this day I never had so much as one minute alone with
Ronald Reagan.”31 (When Regan subsequently became Chief of Staff
to the President, that situation quickly changed. In retrospect, however,
that was not a happy time for Don.) Personally, I liked a process whereby
the President was presented with a variety of views, minimizing the like­
lihood of end runs by my colleagues in the administration (see photo). I
also thought that the meetings at which Don Regan and I both briefed
the President went quite well.
A key example of the collegiate nature of decisionmaking was the
institution of Cabinet Councils to replace the host of interagency com­
mittees that typically had been organized by the White House in the
past. Presidential counselor Edwin Meese was the guiding spirit for the
establishment of these councils. The CEA chairman was an active mem­
ber of three of those cabinet-level groups — Economic Affairs, Com


Courtesy Ronald Reagan Library

President Reagan at a meeting with his economic policy officers.

merce and Trade, and Natural Resources and Environment. When my
schedule permitted, I also attended the meetings o f the other councils
(Human Resources, Food and Agriculture, and Legal Policy). M em­
bers o f the CEA and our senior staff served on the working groups and
task forces set up by the various councils.
The Cabinet Council system ensured that the CEA was represented
in the decision making apparatus that handled a host o f issues — social
security, foreign trade, regulation o f financial institutions, transportation,
environment, energy, agriculture, and many other areas. At key points,
the President attended a Cabinet Council meeting and, at times, made a
decision on the spot. At least in my time, the key role o f the CEA was
not to develop additional new programs, but to operate what my CEA
colleague William Niskanen labeled “a damage limitation mechanism.”
Thus, the CEA was expected to, and predictably did, oppose every
proposal to subsidize some segment o f the economy, or to shield a spe­
cific industry from competition. At times, a Cabinet member proposing
an additional form o f government intervention in the economy would
start o ff by saying, “ Mr. President, Murray will probably give you a
different view, b u t..


The effectiveness of the CEA on any specific issue depended on
the cogency of our analysis, but only in part. For example, we won the
battle to eliminate import restrictions on shoes, but lost the struggle to
contain restrictions on imports of textiles. Was it coincidental that the
Congressional delegation to the White House successfully urging textile
quotas was led by Senator Strom Thurmond, chairman of the Judiciary
Committee, who was diligently working for the approval of the President’s
nominations to the courts? In contrast, the unsuccessful shoe delegation
was chaired by a prominent Northeastern liberal Democrat, Senator
Edward Kennedy.
The CEA did not win all the battles, but the proponents of addi­
tional governmental involvement in the private sector knew that they
would have to do battle. In certain instances— autos and maritime, for
example— I was hampered by Presidential campaign commitments to
aid those two sectors of the economy. However, I found myself grudg­
ingly admiring a sitting President who took his campaign oratory seri­
The CEA did not win all the battles, but the proponents
o f additional governmental involvement in the private
sector knew that they would have to do battle.

The Cabinet Council on Economic Affairs was a forum in which I
presented analyses of economic developments. Frequently, the Presi­
dent and Vice President attended, and my presentation would set off an
informal discussion on economic policy generally. One administration
wag parodied a presentation of mine in the form of a fictitious memo
from “Murray Weidenbomber,” who talked about a “slowing up of the
slowdown” and an “upturn of the downturn.” I like to believe, however,
that my use of “economicese” was not quite as arcane as this parody
might lead people to believe. But, then again...
Meetings, of course, are the basis, and bane, of a bureaucrat’s
existence (see table for an illustration). Surely, a major part of the
CEAchairman’s time is taken up by participating in meetings with other
Cabinet-level officials. Some sessions were of vital importance. De­
fense spending furnished a good example of mixed results.


A Typical Washington Workday
7:45 a.m.
8:00 a.m.

8:45 a.m.

9:50 a.m.
10:00 a.m.

11:50 a.m.
12:00 p.m.

2:00 p.m.

3:00 p.m.

4:00 p.m.

4:40 p.m.
5:00 p.m.
5:30 p.m.

6:00 p.m.
6:30 p.m.
7:00 p.m.
10:00 p.m.

Meet with CEA staff director on day’s agenda.
Daily meeting of White House senior staff. Announce
morning CPI release and answer questions on the
Semi-weekly meeting of Cabinet Council on Economic
Affairs (President attending). Make presentation on
economic outlook. Answer questions on forecasts and
policy. Comment onTreasury Department presentation
on monetary policy.
Car to Capitol Hill. Review likely Congressional questions
with CEA staff economist.
Testify on administration’s economic policy before Senate
Banking Committee. Afterwards, tape brief remarks for
Car to next meeting. Return call from White House.
Address lunch meeting of National Convention of
Financial Institutions. Hold impromptu press conference.
Continue interview walking back to office.
Return urgent calls from press and interest groups.
Review and sign key documents. Brief meeting with
representatives of Hispanic groups.
Make presentation at the White House on administra­
tion’s economic policy to delegation of local govern­
mental officials. The President makes a brief appearance.
Meet at CEA with delegates of real estate and housing
industry officials expressing concern over high interest
rates (at request o f Chairm an o f Senate Finance
Return urgent phone calls.
Meet with Economic Minister of Germany.
Edit memo to President on tom orrow ’s release on
housing starts. Call Regan, Stockman, Volcker to alert
them and discuss implications.
Chair meeting of Council of Economic Advisers to review
work agenda and early planning of Economic Report.
Return remaining telephone calls. Talk with CEA staff
director on way to next meeting.
Address dinner meeting of NAM Board of Directors.
Return to residence. Read cables and papers for
tomorrow’s meetings.


I quickly found myself waging a two-front war on the subject of
military spending. Within the administration, I was consistently on the
side of moderating the planned rapid growth of the military budget, no­
tably sticking to the 5 percent annual real increase advocated by Gover­
nor Reagan in the 1980 campaign (of course, there were no doves in
Ronald Reagan’s administration). But— when faced with higher num­
bers from the Department of Defense — the President regularly took
the position that he would never sacrifice national security for economic
considerations. He tended to see the issue in either/or terms.
In public, I defended the non-inflationaiy nature of the military spend­
ing increases projected by the administration. I relied on the tight money
policy of the Federal Reserve System (the Fed) to offset anyadverse
effects on the overall price level.32 This was a very controversial point
among my fellow economists, especially those in the private sector. A
bit of irony was involved. During the Vietnam War buildup in the 1960s,
I earned some notoriety for identifying the inflationary impact of that
rapid increase in military outlays. That inflationary impact was encour­
aged by the easy money policy that President Lyndon Johnson had urged
upon the Federal Reserve. As I noted repeatedly in 1981, the differ­
ence this time was that the administration strongly supported the Fed’s
policy of monetary restraint.
In early May, I responded to critics by also noting that the 90
percent capacity utilization rate in 1965 was a sharp contrast to the
more modest 80 percent then prevailing. Similarly, the 7 percent unem­
ployment rate in 1981 was a vivid contrast to the 4-112 percent rate in
1965.33 Modesty should prevent me— but it won’t — from saying that
I was correct both in 1965 and 1981.
As I frequently am fond of saying, issues of public policy are
usually too complicated for a bumper sticker. For example, in one
area of military policy I found myself strongly on the side of the Secre­
tary of Defense. In 1981, the military services were experiencing con­
siderable difficulty in meeting their personnel requirements. Questions
were raised publicly about the return of the draft. In response, the
President appointed a special Task Force on Military Manpower,
chaired by Secretary Caspar Weinberger. As a member of the com­
mittee, I endorsed enthusiastically the proposals to maintain a volun­
tary military establishment by improving the compensation and living


conditions of the members of the armed forces. Indeed, the President
approved our recommendations and Congress quickly enacted them.
Helped by an upturn in the economy in late 1982, the recruiting
and retention problems of the military establishment quickly were solved.
Although we had some tough disagreements, Cap Weinberger and I
always maintained a very cordial relationship. Many years later he served
— very constructively — on a think tank task force on the defense
industry that I co-chaired. I cite this experience to my students as an
example of the need to focus on issues, not personalities, in public policy
From the outset Paul Volcker and I strongly agreed on
the need to tighten monetary policy as the main weapon
against inflation, which was running at double digits at
the beginning o f the Reagan Administration.

There were other important dimensions to economic policy, nota­
bly monetary policy. For example, I regularly had a private breakfast
meeting with Paul Volcker, the Fed chairman, and we were in touch on
many other occasions. During the Nixon Administration, we had worked
together at the Treasury (I formally reported to him), so there was a
large amount of mutual trust and understanding.
From the outset we strongly agreed on the need to tighten mon­
etary policy as the main weapon against inflation, which was running at
double digits at the beginning of the Reagan Administration. Volcker
and I worked up together the key monetary policy language in the Feb­
ruary 18 economic white paper issued by the White House:
... the economic scenario [of the Reagan Administration]
assumes that the growth rates of money and credit are steadily
reduced from the 1980 levels to one-half of those levels by
The close relationship between monetary and fiscal policy was
evident in those breakfast meetings. Paul would often begin by asking
about the progress in cutting government spending. On occasion, he
also would inquire about reforming burdensome government regulation.
Invariably, we would discuss current monetary policy with the implicit


understanding that I would use my judgment in briefing the White House.
In leak-prone Washington, the details of my meetings with Volcker were
never leaked.
My public statements were strongly supportive of the Fed’s ac­
tions. In early May 1981, the financial press reported “Wall Street jit­
ters” in view of the tight money policy and impending tax cuts. My
response was clear: “We support the [Federal Reserve] system’s per­
severance in restraining excessive money supply growth, notwithstand­
ing any short-term repercussions on interest rates as financial markets
adapt to the new policy environment.”35
The international aspects of economic policymaking can also be
vital. A wide array of ambassadors and economic and finance ministers
from other nations frequently came by my office for discussions ranging
from the courtesy call to the substantive. On rare occasion, I would
take the lead and contact an ambassador on an issue of mutual interest,
notably in the trade area.
As chairman of the U.S. delegation to the Economic Policy Com­
mittee (EPC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and De­
velopment (OECD), I carried at times a significant representational load
for what was a rather controversial set of policies. After I was elected
chairman of the Economic Policy Committee, I had the opportunity to
work with my counterparts in other countries to develop positions and
draft communiques with which we felt comfortable and which other na­
tions would accept. Much of that material was used to prepare for the
U.S. participation in the annual economic summit meetings of the heads
of the major industrial nations.
Informally, the EPC chairmanship enabled me at key points to
unruffle the feathers of foreign officials who had been upset by earlier
visits by “harder line” American representatives. I recall specifically a
meeting with Jacques Delors, the economics and finance minister of the
new Mitterand Administration. I was asked by our embassy to do that
because an earlier meeting with a senior U.S. government official appar­
ently was too stiff and formal, with the American relying heavily on an
interpreter. Under the circumstances, I began, in truly fractured French,
by remarking how much I enjoyed meeting the representative of the
French socialists in this magnificent palace of royalty (we met in his of­
fice at the Louvre). Laughing, he responded in equally fractured English


and we hit if off!
While I was in Paris for the OECD meetings, I took advantage of
the opportunity to explain the Reagan economic program to European
audiences. In a June 2,1981 speech to the Institute Francais de Rela­
tions International (the equivalent of our Council on Foreign Relations),
I presented the basic philosophy underlying our efforts:
If there is a consistent, overriding theme that is common to all
of these proposals it is the compelling need to reduce the
intrusion and power of government in the private sector of
the economy... That, in turn, will enable the United States
once again to rely . . . on the private sector as the primary
engine of economic growth and progress.
At home, like virtually every other CEA chairman, I believed that it
was vitally important to instruct policymakers as well as the public on
the desirability of free and open trade. In a July 9,1981 testimony to the
Senate Banking Committee, I noted that the CEA had no particular con­
stituency to represent— other than American consumers. I emphasized
the point that any trade restraint to help a specific industry was a transfer
of income and wealth from U.S. consumers— and also from U.S. work­
ers and owners of businesses that would be harmed by higher costs and
foreign retaliation.
By far some of the most dramatic meetings occurred when I testi­
fied before congressional committees, which was a frequent occurrence.
It reached a point where the staff of the congressional Joint Economic
Committee would tease me about the regularity of my appearances (of
course, I never volunteered). On one such occasion I tried to position
the administration above the continuing battle of monetarists, supplysiders, and traditional Keynesians: “To update Thomas Jefferson, we
are all supply-siders, we are all monetarists. However, I went on to
quote the great English neoclassical economist Alfred Marshall who taught
us that there were two blades of the economic scissors: ‘supply and
I developed that theme in more detail in other public presentations.
For example, my June 9, 1981 address to the Gerald Loeb Awards
Dinner (an occasion to honor economic journalists) described the eco­
nomic foundation of the Reagan program as a “carefully designed blend”
of several strands of contemporary conservative economic thinking. The


tax program was especially influenced by a supply-side approach; the
monetary policy was couched essentially in monetarist terms, and the
budgetary restraint effort was a mainstream conservative economic doc­
I took consistently strong positions supporting the
administration s tax cut proposals as well as its
advocacy o f tough monetary restraint.
Such statements upset both the monetarists and the supply-siders
who felt— with some justification— that my views were not firmly
planted in either school of thought. Nevertheless, I took consistently
strong positions supporting the administration’s tax cut proposals as well
as its advocacy of tough monetary restraint. On one occasion, I bluntly
reiterated our commitment to multi-year tax reductions by stating that I
would urge the President to veto a mere one-year tax cut.37

Briefing the President
Of course, the direct contacts with the President are of very spe­
cial importance. Because I took the role of trusted advisor very seri­
ously, there are some matters that I will pass over. However, I will never
forget my meeting with President Reagan on my first day on the job,
when he reminded me that he had been an economics major at Eureka
College. I recalled that incident frequently when he exercised his inde­
pendent judgment on specific economic issues.
I also recall discussing the subject of gold with the President on
several occasions. He did not hesitate to remind me that this was a
matter that he had studied at some length. Indeed, during the campaign
and earlier, he had indicated strong interest in restoring the gold stan­
dard. As a member of the Gold Commission (set up under a 1980 law),
I told him that I would pursue the matter with an open mind. Subse­
quently, I reported to him that the majority of the Commission opposed
a return to gold (see photo with President Reagan and President Assis­
tant Michael Deaver). That disposed of the matter; he made no effort to
overrule our decision. I see that episode as another example of the
CEA’s damage-limitation function or the avoidance of economic harm.


Another private conversation with the President did not relate to
economics, but it gave me great insight into the character of this unusual
man. He described to me a recent meeting with then-Israeli Prime Min­
ister Menachim Begin. The Prime Minister assured the President that, in
his forthcoming public appearances in the United States, he would not
try to put pressure on the President to change his position on a specific
matter. With evident sadness and some anger, the President told me
how Begin failed to keep his promise. However, the incident did noth­
ing to weaken President Reagan’s support for the Jewish state. As in
many other instances, the President was not deflected from his prin­
cipled positions by personal pique — but he obviously had to get the
matter off his chest!
Another important function of the CEA is to keep the President
abreast of current economic developments. In addition to sending out a
regular flow of analytic reports, the CEA chairman alerts the President
to impending releases of economic news. Thus, the evening before the
consumer price index for a given month is issued, the President has on
his desk a memo from the chairman setting forth the highlights. At times
he would call for amplification. We had a pleasant — but spirited and
extended — difference of views on the matter of seasonally adjusted
versus unadjusted reports on employment and unemployment. We ulti­
mately resolved this matter by my providing him both sets of data, to­
gether with suitable caveats.
An insight into my approach to my job related to that less-thanmomentous issue. After hearing me out fully, the President decided that
he would use the unadjusted data in a speech. I then suggested a sen­
tence to explain his position: “We do not live in a seasonally adjusted
world.” He promptly inserted it into his speech.
Perhaps one of the most useful briefings was the one I gave the
President as he was preparing for his first Economic Summit with foreign
leaders. My presentation consisted solely of a series of flip charts on
economic issues and accompanying oral commentary. (Other excellent
presentations were made by Secretary of State A1 Haig on foreign policy
and Treasury Secretary Don Regan on international finance.) Despite
the concerns of some observers as to the President’s skimpy background
on foreign affairs, his performance at the meetings received virtually
universal praise. Of course, I was pleased at how things went.


Courtesy Ronald Reagan Library

Briefing the President on the work o f the gold commission.

This was in striking contrast to the approach apparently followed
sometime after I left the administration. It was reported that the Presi­
dent received two big fat briefing books to prepare him for a later Eco­
nomic Summit. Apparently, he put them aside and watched some old
movies. The press, o f course, reported this in a manner adverse to the
President. My reaction, in contrast, was anger toward the advisers who
did not know how to communicate effectively with the President o f the
United States.

The CEA and Its Staff
As is customary with any change o f administration, the incoming
CEA chair inherits the professional people selected by his predecessors
(the statistical and supporting staff are career employees). Those pro­
fessionals are typically academics on an academic year leave o f absence
from a university or research institute. Thus, their appointments typically
extend to the middle o f the first year of the new administration. Although
my predecessor Charles Schultze was a Democratic appointee, he also
was an old friend and was helpful in the transition. Also assisting me was
his staff director, Susan Irving, who stayed on for a short time to help me


settle in office.
In any event, I found without exception all of the “holdover” staff
to be fine professional economists and ever-loyal secretaries, and as
dedicated to the work of the Council as the new people that we brought
in — which was a high standard. In a few cases, I extended their ap­
pointments beyond mid-year. As for the career staff, I had worked with
some of them when I was a full-time consultant to the council in the
summer of 1964, working especially with CEAmember Gardner Ackley.
Early on I asked Dr. James Burnham, then an officer of Mellon
Bank in Pittsburgh, to join me as the staff director and assistant to the
chairman. Jim was a fine economist who received his Ph.D. at Wash­
ington University and who had suffered through at least one of my courses.
Jim served from early February 1981 until the summer of 1982 when he
was appointed as the U.S. Executive Director of the World Bank. I
leaned heavily on Jim for advice as well as assistance.
Because of the delay in recruiting the other two members of the
three-member CEA (a point to which I will return), I asked Dr. Nicholas
Filippello, the chief economist of St. Louis-based Monsanto Company,
to join me as an informal pinch-hit member of the council. At the outset
we agreed that, to avoid any possible conflict of interest, he would deal
exclusively with macroeconomic issues and scrupulously avoid any in­
volvement in matters affecting any specific sector ofbusiness. Dr. Filippello
served during February and March 1981. He helped to deal with the
macroeconomic staffs of OMB and Treasury and many other issues.
When his appointment ended, I asked Dr. James Smith of Union Car­
bide, another experienced business economist, to join the CEA staff
temporarily and he performed similar functions. Both of these fine econo­
mists were extremely helpful at a time when I felt that I was virtually a
one-man band.
My understanding with the White House on the selection of the
two members of the CEA was clear. I was the recruiter and, of course,
the White House would make the final determination because these were
presidential appointments. Given my hectic schedule, it took a while for
me to focus on this essential action. I proposed Dr. William Niskanen,
an economics professor at UCLA and former Ford Motor Company
chief economist, to be the “micro” member of the CEA. Bill had served
on my transition task force on regulatory reform and I was well aware of


his strong analytical ability as well as professional independence and
integrity (my understanding is that Ford fired him because he would not
back off his free trade position). Bill was sworn in on June 12,1981
and served until March 30,1985.38
It took a bit longer to select the “macro” member of the Council. It
became clear that a monetarist-oriented economist was needed. Many
of the macroeconomists that I approached did not meet this basic crite­
rion. In the case of others, I was concerned how well we would work
together. Ultimately, I proposed Professor Jerry Jordan of the Univer­
sity of New Mexico whom I first met when he served as senior vice
president of the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank. At the Bank, he had
done some important and widely cited work in monetary economics.
Jerry was sworn in on July 14,1981 and served until July 31,1982.
One ofthe most time-consuming and important parts of the Council’s
work is preparing the annual Economic Report called for by the Em­
ployment Act of 1946. That is the law that established the CEA. Much
of the late fall of 1981 and early winter of 1982 were devoted to that
task, which involved virtually every member of the staff. There seemed
to be a natural division of labor among the three members of the Coun­
cil. Jerry took on the responsibility for the sections on monetary policy
and international finance. Bill took the lead on the microeconomic por­
tions and I focused on the tax, budget, and regulatory areas.
The final version, of course, was a group effort on the part of the
three members of the Council, ably assisted by staffdirector Jim Burnham
and the other members of the CEA professional staff (see appendix). I
cannot report that the process was free of tension or disagreement. In
retrospect, having the libertarian as well as the monetarist approaches to
economic policy represented on the CEA, although it involved a fair
amount of internal stress, was a key to the success in shifting national
economic policy from a Keynesian to a mainstream conservative orien­
Nevertheless, Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1950 lodges all of the
authority of the CEA in the chairman and I made some tough calls in the
course of preparing the Economic Report which was issued in Febru­
ary 1982. Looking back, the 1982 Economic Report was a landmark
in U.S. economic policy.
Several distinguished scholars commented on the Report. The


late Karl Brunner of the University of Rochester wrote that our report
“articulated the crucial issues involving the Political Economy of Gov­
ernment .. .”39 In a symposium published in the Journal o f Monetary
Economics, the late James Tobin ofYale and James Buchanan of George
Mason University (both Nobel laureates) took very different positions
on portions of the Report, especially Chapter 2, “Government and the
Economy” (drafted by Paul Rubin, now of Emory University, under the
supervision of Bill Niskanen).
In commenting on Chapter 2, Buchanan stated, “This chapter,
standing alone, is of general and timeless value. It should be required
reading for students in all curricula.. .,,4° In sharp contrast, Tobin found
Chapter 2 “too shallow and vacuous” for anyone who has studied col­
lege economics and too turgid and opaque for anyone else.”41
Tobin focused his comments on other parts of the 1982 Report,
complimenting our CEA for maintaining the tradition of “professional
competence and integrity” while criticizing especially the monetary and
macro sections:
Once again the profession and the public gain by having the
attention of able economists on the Council and its staff fo­
cused on pressing issues of public policy.42
Tobin gave examples from the Report of “theoretically sound and
empirically interesting analyses which let the chips fall where they may.”
He cited the section of the tax chapter that reported that the
administration’s tax incentives for investment were so generous in some
cases that they resulted in effective tax rates that are negative. Tobin
also cited the discussion of the defense buildup as “less sanguine” than
usual administration statements about its economic effects.43
That final point was elaborated in Emma Rothschild’s extended
review of the 1982 Report in the New York Review o f Books. She
noted that the Report was “commendably outspoken in its account of
military economics.”44
Several years later, Tobin, who had served as a member of Presi­
dent Kennedy’s CEA, asked me to join him in putting together a volume
he labeled, Two Revolutions in Economic Policy. As we wrote (fol­
lowing a Tobin draft), “The early 1960s and the early 1980s were both
watersheds in federal economic policy.”45 The bulk of the volume con­
sisted of the CEA’s annual reports for 1962 and 1982. We each added


some notes and supplementary material, notably the economic White
Paper of February 18,1981.

The Inevitable Letdown
The heart of the Reagan economic program was adopted in 1981.
The Congress enacted the President’s proposed tax cuts and added an
“indexing” provision to the personal income tax to eliminate the ten­
dency of the Treasury to benefit from “inflation.” The result was two­
fold: to provide greater incentives and stimulus to the private sector and
to reduce the future rise of federal revenues. On the spending side,
Congress on balance approved the proposed increases in military spend­
ing but was a bit less responsive in approving the reductions in the growth
of civilian spending. The result of the two actions was to increase the
size of the budget deficits.
The most significant accomplishment in the regulatory area was so
undramatic that it went unnoticed. During the Reagan presidency —
and unlike other administrations in recent decades— no new regulatory
agency was established nor was any major regulatory program substan­
tially expanded. It was reminiscent of the Sherlock Holmes tale where
the most significant clue was not action at all, but the fact that the dog did
not bark.
During the Reagan presidency — and unlike other
administrations in recent decades — no new regulatory
agency was established nor was any major regulatory
program substantially expanded.
Until the Mexican financial crisis in the summer of 1982, the Fed­
eral Reserve maintained the position of monetary restraint that the
administration urged. In practice, the Fed’s monetary policy was tighter
than we had assumed because of the concern over the potential infla­
tionary impacts of the rising budget deficit.
On balance, many of the changes in economic policy that I had
hoped to see made were put into motion.
However, I devoted much of 1982 to a basically unsuccessful ef­
fort to achieve a key premise underlying the February 18,1981 eco­
nomic White Paper: to match the tax cuts with spending cuts. It had


been obvious from the outset that the President’s heart was with cutting
taxes. He did not need any lectures on the negative effects of high bracket
income taxation. In our discussions, he would recall vividly the role of
taxes in his Hollywood days. Sometime in the fall of the year, their
accountants would tell the movie stars when they were hitting the top
bracket (then over 90 percent). That was the signal not to take on any
more assignments for the year. Thus President Reagan had a deep per­
sonal understanding of the disincentive effects of higher tax rates!
His attitude was not quite the same in the case of controlling gov­
ernment spending. As a general proposition, of course, he wanted smaller
government and many reductions were achieved. However, for ex­
ample, when the Secretary of the Interior appealed the reductions we
were recommending in the department’s public works projects (in olden
times, they were referred to as the “pork barrel”), the President sided
with him. I do not recall the precise words, but he said something like
“Everybody’s picking on Jim Watt. I’ve got to show Jim my support.”
Similarly, when the Secretary of Commerce appealed the reduc­
tions in business subsidies, the President responded, “Mac is such a nice
guy. Let’s give him most of what he wants.” The late Mac Baldrige was
one of the finest persons I ever met. Moreover, presidents often over­
rule the tough budget recommendations presented to them. Neverthe­
less, I found responses such as these to much of our budget cutting
efforts very discouraging.
Knowing that I would be expected to defend the President’s bud­
get when it was released— and that I would feel impelled to do so if I
stayed in office — I decided during this period to quietly leave the ad­
ministration.46 I timed my departure so that I would be on campus in the
fall of 1982 for the beginning of the 1982-83 academic year. It turned
out that my departure was not as quiet as I had hoped.
When he accepted my resignation, the President asked me to make
no public announcement until he could line up a successor. Of course, I
agreed. However, it turned out that the President himself prematurely
and unintentionally leaked the news to the press. During an off-camera
break in a TV interview in St. Louis, he told the reporter (Julius Hunter)
that I soon would be returning to the campus. That off-hand comment
by the President generated a flurry of inquiries from the Washington
press corps. That evening I received a call from Mike Deaver who


asked me not to talk to reporters until a 10 a.m. press conference that
was quickly scheduled for me the next morning.
Complying with Mike’s request was harder than I anticipated. At
the time, my wife and I lived in a high rise apartment building. While I
was getting dressed the next morning, she looked out the window and
observed a wild scene below. A large number of journalists had as­
sembled in the courtyard, together with an array of broadcasting and
transmitting equipment. I quickly realized that I would be besieged by
questioning reporters if I tried to drive out of the building.
Instead, I went down to the basement that led to the Giant super­
market next door and then to the metro. I took the train to a nearby
hotel where I read the morning paper in the lobby until the coast was
clear for me to go to the office. Despite the hectic events, I am grateful
to the President for making it clear that the decision to leave was mine.
As the President said as I was leaving the White House, “we part
as friends” (see accompanying photo). I am especially proud of the fact
that I was the only departing member of the CEA during his eight years
in office that he appointed to the President’s Economic Policy Advisory
Board (the outside advisers who met with the President quarterly). As a
board member, I had numerous occasions to return to the White House
during the remainder of his presidency and to present him with my views.
Looking back, it seems clear that, on balance, “Reaganomics” was
a success. Certainly, the President’s policies had injected a new sense
of realism into the decision making in the private sector. The govern­
ment no longer was expected to rush in to aid the losers in the continuing
competition in the marketplace. Management and workers alike be­
came more concerned with controlling costs and increasing productivity
in order to maintain competitiveness.
Looking back, it seems clear that, on balance,
“Reaganomics ” was a success.
The specific results, very frankly, showed a variety of paradoxes
and even some contradictions: lower inflation and higher budget defi­
cits; lower tax rates and higher levels of government spending (espe­
cially for the military); less unemployment and bigger trade deficits; the
deepest recession in half a century (but quite short); and a longer peace


Weidenbaum departing the Oval Office after his resignation as
chairman o f the Council o f Economics Advisers in 1982.

time recovery than had ever been achieved previously.
Surely Reaganomics did not work painlessly. Recession occurred
during the transition from rapid inflation and price stability. Overall, the
benefits outweighed the costs. Certainly, the Reagan economic pro­
gram provided a model for much o f the rest o f the world. Witness the
simultaneous spread o f free-market econom ics to many parts o f the
globe, including former communist economies. Warts and all, the Reagan
presidency was a higher watermark for the American economy.
Certainly the U.S. economy was in better shape when President
Reagan left office than when he first was sworn into the presidency. In
1980 (President C arter’s last year), the gross domestic product de­
clined by one-half o f 1 percent; it rose 4 percent in 1988. The con­
sumer price index rose 13 percent in 1980 and only 4 percent in 1988.
The prime rate dropped from 15 percent in 1980 to 9 percent in 1988.
Unemployment declined from 7 percent to 5.4 percent.
On the other hand, the budget deficit rose from S74 billion to $ 155


billion and the trade deficit from $ 15 billion to $ 129 billion. However,
real national wealth rose from $ 12 trillion to $ 14 trillion in the same
period. And, to the surprise of many, the portion of the population be­
low the poverty line was stable — 13 percent in both years.

Some Personal Thoughts
For a teacher, the rewards of serving the President were consider­
able. One give-and-take session on national television gave me the
chance to explain aspects of the economy to a far larger audience than a
college professor normally can generate in a lifetime. The opportunities
to do so were numerous, including appearances on Face the Nation,
Good Morning America, McNeil-Lehrer News hour, Wall Street
Week, and Nightline (see accompanying photograph).
If the presidency is a bully pulpit, the CEA chairmanship is a most
elevated lectureship. As I look back on my experiences in that office, I
find that I used the position to develop four themes: (1) economic free­
dom is closely intertwined with personal liberty, (2) business-govemment relations should be characterized by less intervention by govern­
ment, (3) free trade is the international combination of these two themes,
and (4) it is necessary, from time to time, to take a swipe at business’s
pleas for special privileges.
A particularly memorable occasion occurred on April 1,1982. Each
year the folks on Wall Street issue an April Fool’s edition of the Wall
Street Journal. The front page of the 1982 edition reported that Nancy
Reagan had resigned as first lady after admitting that she had accepted a
$ 1,000 fee from Forbes magazine “to use her influence to gain access
to Murray Weidenbaum’s boudoir.”
There also were opportunities to present serious professional analy­
ses to broad audiences. For example, in a June 25,1981 presentation
to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, I reported
an important but overlooked crossover: the shift from government to
private sector dominance in the funding of research and development in
the United States.
This is a point that I continued to make after I returned to the
private sector. The shift in the source of sponsorship of R&D was likely,
I maintained, to result in a future increase in the flow of new products
and improved production processes. This has been the case. The pri


Weidenbaum appearing on "Face the Nation " in March 1982.

vate sector now finances about 70 percent o f all R&D and recent rates
o f productivity growth have been substantially above historical aver­
In the course o f my frequent congressional testimonies, I had the
opportunity to get a lot “o ff my chest.” In June 1982,1 told the Joint
Economic Committee that I dismissed as “merely wishful thinking” the
notion that cutting taxes is the easiest way to cut spending. I also stated
that the term “demand” is not obscene. All this did nothing to endear me
to my supply-side colleagues.
Those were heady times. In 1981, U.S. News and World R e­
port included me in a list o f the 30 most influential Americans47 and
again in 1982. To put the m atter in perspective, when I was back at
Washington University in 1983,1 was quickly dropped from the list.
In a sim ilar fashion, just a few weeks after I returned to St. Louis in
late 1982,1was visiting Washington for a meeting. In the lobby of the
hotel in which I was staying a lady stopped me to ask, “ D idn’t you


used to be somebody?” I don’t recall my answer.
On the subject of humor, perhaps my most lasting legacy was to
introduce the term “rosy scenario.” As I recall, the first time that phrase
was used in 1981 was not in connection with the administration’s opti­
mistic economic forecast. Rather, it occurred at a breakfast meeting
with two reporters for the Wall Street Journal who wondered what
progress I was making in recruiting the other two members of the CEA.
My flip response was something like, “Contrary to rumor, the next CEA
member was not going to be an affirmative action hire known as Rosy
Perhaps my most lasting legacy was to introduce
the term “rosy scenario. ”
Another perhaps unfortunate example of my attempt to defuse a
difficult situation with a wisecrack was an interview with the legendary
James (Scotty) Reston, the chief Washington correspondent of the New
York Times. I provided a juicy comment about the administration’s
economic program: “I’m not pessimistic. I’m not optimistic. I’m a
mystic.” Reston went on to note, “He was kidding, of course.” Never­
theless, the headline read, “Mystics on the Potomac.”48 The subsequent
needling from my colleagues was well deserved.
Another attempt at humor was more ephemeral. One pleasant
day (June 11,1981), the President invited political adviser Lyn Nofziger
and me to join him for lunch in the Rose Garden. There was no special
agenda. I believe the President just wanted to thank us for our hard
work. While we were waiting for the food to be served, I made a
wisecrack (whose substance I cannot recall). Lyn topped me with a
real zinger. The President quickly responded with one of his own.
In the presence of two professionals, I then observed a delightful
oral ping-pong match. In the course of the lunch, the President regaled
us with stories in which he used his Irish brogue as well as other ethnic
humor, including a fine Italian accent. It was a delightful break from an
otherwise arduous schedule.
Another great memory was my wife Phyllis and I being invited to
the family theatre in the White House. That evening we joined other
staff members as well as social friends of the Reagans. I forget the


movie that was shown, but I have an indelible memory of the President
entering with James Cagney and Nancy wheeling in Pat O’Brien!
Although I leave the evaluation of my performance to others, it is
quite clear that I fell somewhat short of the best of my predecessors —
and successors — but I truly gave the job my all. The Washington
Post provided the following appraisal:
Weidenbaum is less dynamic an outside salesman than the
superconfident Stockman. He is more earnest, a bit more
professorial [only a bit?] and less given to cosmic rhetoric.
“At first,” says a Treasury official, “Murray sort of
underwhelms you. But he always outperforms the initial im­
I returned to the private sector with no grand lessons. I came
away grateful to President Reagan for the opportunity to speak my mind
and to know that decision makers in government were listening to at
least one economist before making up their minds. It was a great expe­
rience to work with an outstanding array of Executive and Legislative
Branch leaders. I am impelled to cite, among many, Secretary of State
George Shultz, Trade Representative William Brock, and Senators Bob
Dole and Howard Baker.
I take some considerable pride in the success o f the
Reagan presidency.
Whether justified or not, I take some considerable pride in the
success of the Reagan presidency and, of course, I am ready to take my
full share of blame for any shortcomings. The last word, however, prop­
erly should go to President Reagan. I treasure his generous response to
my letter of resignation:
It is with deep regret that I honor your request and accept
your resignation... I shall always appreciate the extraordi­
nary contributions you have made to the formulation, advo­
cacy, and refinement of all elements of our Economic Re­
covery Program . . . . We will all miss you — and your


remarkable ability to combine clarity of insight about the
“dismal science” with unfailing good humor.50

In February 1999, on the occasion of Ronald Reagan’s 88th birth­
day, Nancy Reagan hosted a reunion at the Reagan Library of the friends
and alumni of the Reagan presidency. I participated in a panel on the
economic program along with Edwin Meese and Martin Anderson.
Following the formal sessions and after the press and most of the guests
had left, I took a seat on a sofa next to Mrs. Reagan and asked her how
the President was doing (because of advanced Alzheimer’s, he did not
attend and she had a tape of the proceedings made for him).
Not having seen her since I left the White House, I was somewhat
taken aback. The strong, assertive woman that I recalled was now a
soft and sad person. With tears in her eyes, she said that, at times, she
felt that the nation needed his strong leadership (this was the period
when President Clinton was being criticized for his sexual activities).
However, she added that, most of the time, she was glad that he did not
know what was going on. “You knew how much he respected the Presi­
Along those lines, during a break at the reunion, many had asked if
we had ever seen the President in the Oval Office without his jacket and
tie on. (He otherwise was an informal dresser; meetings in the private
residence often found him wearing slacks and an open neck sport shirt.)
None of us had ever seen Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office or at any
other official function without a jacket and tie!
Through some very difficult times, Reagan was always upbeat. I
once sought an explanation from a White House staff member who had
worked for him in California. The response was very enlightening; Ronald
Reagan, in taking a more optimistic position than those around him, was
right more often than the staff!


The U.S. Council of Economic Advisers, 1981-82
Murray L. Weidenbaum
Jerry L. Jordan
William A. Niskanen
James B. Burnham

Special Assistant to the Chairman

Senior S ta ff Economists
Geoffrey 0. Carliner
William D. Dobson
Michele U. Fratianni
Steven H. Hanke
Laurence J. Kotlikoff
Michael J. McKee
David C. Munro
Susan C. Nelson
Allen M. Parkman
Paul H. Rubin
Elinor Y. Sachse
Adrian W. Throop
Benjamin Zycher

Labor and Pensions
Agriculture and Food Policy
Monetary Economics and
International Finance
Natural Resources and Environment
Taxation and Social Security
Macroeconomic Analysis,
Productivity, and Prices
Macroeconomic Analysis, Fore­
casting, and Economic Statistics
Public Finance, Taxes, Social
Security, and Health and Welfare
General Microeconomics and
General Microeconomics and
International Trade
Money, Banking, and Financial
Energy and Microeconomics

Catherine H. Furlong

Senior Statistician
Junior Economists

Lawrence B. Lindsey
Robert G. Murphy
Dan C. Roberts
Chris P. Varvares
F. Katharine Wame

Public Finance
International Trade and Finance
Financial Institutions and Markets
Macroeconomic Analysis and



1Thomas W. Ottenad, “Weidenbaum Expected to Get Top Eco­
nomic Job,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 15,1981, p. 4A.
2Reforming Government Regulation, Report of the Task Force
on Regulatory Reform, November 1,1980.
3Economic Strategy fo r the Reagan Administration, A Report
to President-Elect Ronald Reagan from his Coordinating Committee on
Economic Policy, November 16,1980.
4The White House Office of the Press Secretary, Statement by
President Ronald Reagan, January 23,1981.
5Howell Raines, “Economic Problems Dominate Activities ofNew
President,” New York Times, January 24,1981, p. 1.
6Ibid., p. 1.
7The White House Office of the Press Secretary, Briefing fo r
Reporters by Murray Weidenbaum, January 23,1981.
9David A. Stockman, The Triumph o f Politics (New York: Harper
& Row, 1986), p. 95.
10 Martin Anderson, Revolution (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
1988), p. 349.
11 Steven Rattner, “Stockman, Regan Roles in Split Economic
Team,” New York Times, March 4, 1981, p. D -1.
12Shirley Hobbs Scheibla, “Meet Mr. Weidenbaum: Top White
House Adviser Ducks No Issues,” Barron s, March 23,1981, p. 22.
13 Stockman, Triumph o f Politics, p. 95.
15Ibid, p. 96.
16Ibid, p. 97. The model that the group had been using, devel­
oped by John Rutledge, was reported to consist of only six equations
“with a monetarist and supply-side orientation.” My associate, Nicho­
las Filippello, was unable to get the details because of the proprietary
nature of the model.
17U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Af­
fairs, Nomination o f Murray L. Weidenbaum (Washington, D.C.: U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1981), pp. 1-2.
18John M. Berry, “Weidenbaum Urges Tax, Spending Cuts,” Wash­
ington Post, February 6, 1981, p. D-l.


20My testimonies included talking about the Reagan economic pro­
gram, the importance of agriculture to the U.S. economy, the state of
small business, tax policy and productivity, monitoring inflation, the fed­
eral budget for 1983, and the proposed constitutional amendment to
balance the budget. The committees included Senate Finance, House
Ways and Means, Senate Small Business, House and Senate Appro­
priations, House and Senate Judiciary, House and Senate Banking, Senate
Government Affairs, and, of course, the Joint Economic Committee.
During the same period, I was called upon to speak to a host of
private organizations including the Conference Board, the American
Stock Exchange, the American Bankers Association, the Freedoms
Foundation, the International Management and Development Institute,
the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a vari­
ety of colleges and universities.
21Thomas Love, “CFA Gives Cool Greeting to Weidenbaum Re­
marks,” Washington Star, February 7,1981. I guess I should not have
tried to copy Franklin D. Roosevelt who addressed the Daughters of
the American Revolution as “My Fellow Immigrants.”
22Audit o f the U.S. Economy (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Council
of Economic Advisers), February 12,1981.
23 Steven Rattner, “Some Economists Dispute Premises of
President’s Speech on Economy,” New York Times, February 13,1981,
p. 2.
24Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, “Sidestepping the SupplySide,” Washington Post, February 20, 1981, p. A-15.
25Anderson, Revolution, p. 237.
26Frank Vogl, “Americans Face ‘Rough Medicine’ of Spending
Cuts,” The Times, February 18,1981.
21 Ibid.
28“The Emerging Style,” Washington Star, February 23,1981.
29 Jeanne Ansehl, “Mrs. Weidenbaum Goes to Washington,”
Clayton Times, April 15,1981.
30This section draws on Murray Weidenbaum, One-Armed Econo­
mist (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Press, 2004), pp. 43-48.
31 Donald T. Regan, For the Record (New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1988), p. 142.


32“Debate on Military Funds Rises,” New York Times, March 19,
1981, pp. D 1-D2; I.F. Stone, “Gambling on Entrails,” Washington Post,
March 22, 1981, pp. D1-D2.
33 See Murray Weidenbaum, The Economic Outlook, An Ad­
dress to the Society of American Business and Economic Writers, New
York City, May 5,1981; Hobart Rowan, “CEA Chief Defends Defense
Budget,” Washington Post, May 1,1981, p. E2.
34“America’s New Beginning: A Program for Economic Recov­
ery,” in James Tobin and Murray Weidenbaum, eds., Two Revolutions
in Economic Policy (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1988), p. 314.
35John M. Berry, “White House Praises Fed Action,” Washing­
ton Post, May 6, 1981, pp. B1-B2; Edward Cowan, “White House
Backs Rate Move,” New York Times, May 6, 1981, p. D7.
36 Quoted in Leonard Silk, “Clash Over Gold Standard,” New
York Times, April 29,1981, p. D2.
37Denise Lemot, “Weidenbaum Voices Opposition to ‘Stop-andGo’ Tax Cut Plans,” Journal o f Commerce, May 4,1981; Kenneth H.
Bacon, “Wall Street Jitters Won’t Deter Reagan on Economic Policy,”
Wall Street Journal, May 6, 1981, p. 2.
38For Niskanen’s detailed views on the CEA and other aspects of
Reagan economic policy, see William A. Niskanen, Reaganomics (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1988).
39Karl Brunner, “Introduction” in Political Economy in the Eco­
nomic Report o f the President (Rochester: University of Rochester
Graduate School of Management, 1982), p. 1.
40James M. Buchanan, “The Political Economy of Reagan Eco­
nomics,^” Journal o f Monetary Economics, Vol. 10, 1982, p. 289. I
am indebted to James Burnham for successfully urging me to keep Chap­
ter 2 in the final version of the Economic Report.
41James Tobin, “The 1982 Economic Report of the President,” in
Ibid., p. 299.
42 Ibid., p. 298.
43 Ibid., p. 299.
44Emma Rothschild, “The Philosophy of Reaganism,” New York
Review o f Books, April 15,1982.
45 “Preface,” Tobin and Weidenbaum, Two Revolutions, p. vii.
46For some other details on my departure, see Jeffrey Frankel,


“What an Economic Adviser Can Do When He Disagrees With the Presi­
dent,” Challenge, May-June 2003, pp. 35,151-52.
47“Who Runs America?” U.S. News and World Report, May 18,
1981, p. 39.
48 James Reston, “Mystics on the Potomac,” New York Times,
March 22, 1981, p. E l9.
49Hobart Rowan, “Weidenbaum: Economic Scissors Has Two
Blades,” Washington Post, March 1,1981, p. 3. Dr. Nicholas Filippello
described the various strands in the thinking of the Reagan economic
officials in terms of four intersecting circles: supply-side, monetarist,
rationale expectations, and a “touch of Keynesianism.” (Personal com­
munication to the author, October 6,2004.) For a more detailed view
of various strands of the economic philosophy of Reagan Administration
economists, see Henry R. Nau, The Myth o f America s Decline (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. 196-204).
50“Exchange of Letters Between the President and the Chairman
of the Council of Economic Advisers Murray L. Weidenbaum,” The
White House, Office of the Press Secretary, July 23,1982.