He took on New Jersey’s Clifford Case and forever changed the way Reagan conservatives talked about the economy.
But it was Bell’s role in the emergence of “supply-side economics” that cemented his stature in American politics. I rate him among the top four figures in that emergence, along with Jude Wanniski, editorial writer and commentator for The Wall Street Journal; his boss, Robert Bartley, who ran the Journal’s editorial page; Congressman Jack Kemp of New York, at that time famous mostly as a former NFL quarterback for the Buffalo Bills but later highly influential politically; and Bell.
Wanniski, a kinetic figure who operated in a constant state of intensity as if the fate of the world hinged on his latest insight, crafted the argument that America’s growing problem of “stagflation”—economic stagnation mixed with inflation—stemmed from insufficient attention to the supply side of the economy. He sold the idea to Bartley, who turned his editorial page into a kind of journalistic billboard on behalf of this outlier concept. Kemp, reading Wanniski’s Journal editorials (and a particularly influential piece of commentary by him in The National Observer), sought out Wanniski and Bartley with offers to press the cause in Congress. Then Jeff Bell became the first person to test the resonance of the concept on the hustings.
But the bigger theme is the need for the U.S. and the world to return to the free-market, free-trade, entrepreneurial, supply-side, tax-incentive model of growth with stable money. That model worked during the Coolidge-Mellon 1920s, the JFK 1960s, the Reagan 1980s, and the Clinton 1990s.
If nothing else, a new Republican Congress must message clearly that the U.S. will stop the recent leftward economic lurch. It’s not hard to pinpoint what’s gone wrong, propose positive solutions, and argue that the economic ship can be righted fast.
– – – – –
So let me optimistically argue that the slow-growth economy can be rescued and the fiscal and monetary mistakes can be reversed. Lower tax rates, less spending, deregulation, and a sound dollar will do it. The GOP can make this case — and right away.
And if the Sandinista Democrats would read a little history, they’d see I’m arguing for the JFK model of growth — which was the forebear of Ronald Reagan’s supply-side revolution.
It can be done.
Also, Larry Kudlow interviewed Jeff Bell this morning on his national radio show. Listen to the interview here:
As we mentioned in yesterday’s brew, George F. Will has a great column this week about Jeff Bell in New Jersey. Well, this morning the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review gave the Will piece the full back page of its opinion section. See for yourself.
Every 36 years, it seems, Jeff Bell disturbs New Jersey’s political order. In 1978, as a 34-year-old apostle of supply-side economics and a harbinger of the Reagan Revolution, he stunned the keepers of the conventional wisdom by defeating a four-term senator, Clifford Case, in the Republican primary. Bell, a Columbia University graduate who fought in Vietnam, lost to Bill Bradley in the 1978 general election, but in 1982 he went to Washington to help implement President Reagan’s economic policies that produced five quarters of above 7 percent growth and six years averaging 4.6 percent.
Under the gold standard, the value of the dollar would be fixed to a certain amount of gold
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Republican Jeff Bell spent three decades in Washington working on policy and wrote a book promoting all aspects of social conservatism. But so far his campaign for the U.S. Senate has centered on just one issue: returning the United States to the gold standard.
“We are in a situation of stagnation,” Bell said earlier this month in a speech to a real estate conference in New Brunswick. “Why don’t they let market interest rates return to our economy?”
Like other supporters of the gold standard, Bell is an acolyte of Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp, the late congressman, secretary of housing and urban development and vice presidential nominee who made the call for cutting taxes to stimulate the economy part of a national debate in the late 1970s. Bell, now 70, won the Republican nomination for a New Jersey U.S. Senate seat in 1978 largely by advocating the kind of Reagan-era tax cuts some credit with spurring the economy.