Bill Moyers talks with conservative economist Bruce Bartlett, who wrote "the bible" for the Reagan Revolution, worked on domestic policy for the Reagan White House, and served as a top treasury official under the first President Bush. Now he's a heretic in the conservative circles where he once was a star. Bartlett argues that right-wing tax policies -- pushed in part by Grover Norquist and Tea Party activists -- are destroying the country's economic foundation.
BILL MOYERS: Heather McGhee speaks of how the neoliberal economic experience of the last 30 years – including cutting taxes on the rich and waiting for the wealth and prosperity to trickle down -- has left her generation of Millennials standing under a spigot someone forgot to turn on. After a few drips and drops, it went dry. So did the very notion of equal opportunity for all. And today we’re living in a country deeply divided between winners and losers. Nowhere is that more evident than in our tax system – so distorted by loopholes, exemptions, credits, and deductions favoring the already rich and powerful that it no longer can raise the money needed to pay the government’s bills.
Among the people who saw this crisis coming was the conservative economist Bruce Bartlett, the supply-side champion who wrote the manifesto for the Reagan Revolution. Bartlett became a senior policy analyst in the Reagan White House and a top official at the Treasury Department under the first George Bush. Yet for all those credentials, he is today an outcast from the very conservative ranks where he was once so influential. That’s because Bruce Bartlett dared to write a book criticizing the second George Bush as a pretend conservative who slashed taxes but still spent with wild abandon.
The subtitle says it all: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.
For his heresy Bartlett was sacked by the conservative think tank where he worked. Undaunted, this card-carrying advocate of free markets and small government has been a prolific writer for popular and academic journals and has just published a new book: The Benefit and the Burden: Tax Reform - Why We Need It and What It Will Take. It’s a layman’s guide through the jungle of a tax system that, thanks to rented politicians and anti-tax ideologues like Grover Norquist, enable the one percent to make off like bandits while our national debt soars sky-high. I talked to Bruce Bartlett soon after he had finished his new book.