Glenn interviews Arthur Laffer


Insider Exclusive - Download the eBook version of President Ronald Reagan's Initial Actions Report. Learn more...

GLENN: All right. From Radio City in Midtown Manhattan, third most listened to show in all of America. And it is Earth Day. I'm celebrating here. Man, can I tell you something? I would hate to have conditions that make Pol Pot look like Gandhi and that's exactly if you let me tell you something, if the you are in an SUV right now, that's exactly what you're doing. Do we have Art Laffer on the phone? Now let's to bring somebody credible on the program right after that, I mean

LAFFER: That was the most entertaining piece. You know, Al Gore lives right down the street from me in Nashville.

GLENN: Really?

LAFFER: Yeah, he's a very nice man, by the way. It was the funnest parody I've ever heard. That was just a riot.

GLENN: So now Art, does he have solar panels?

LAFFER: I don't really know. You'd have to fly a helicopter over his house and I think you'd get shot down.

GLENN: I have a feeling you would. Well, just not even to count all the carbon credits that you would need to fly a helicopter. But anyway, so Art, you were with the Reagan administration?

LAFFER: Yes, sir.

GLENN: What did you do?

LAFFER: I was on the President's Economic Policy Advisory Board which it's called PEPAB. I was on the executive advisory committee on the election of the president. There were a small group of maybe 11 of us formed and then I was on the executive committee of the Reagan/Bush finance committee in 1984. Those were my official positions.

GLENN: Okay. So you knew I mean, you worked side by side? Were you with him very much?

LAFFER: I saw him a great deal, yes, especially before he went into office and after he was out. But I saw him a good deal while he was president as well, maybe once a month for a couple of hours.

GLENN: You know, I have to tell you what an honor that must have been. I have read portions of his diary, I have read his letters, you know.

LAFFER: Aren't they amazing?

GLENN: They are amazing. I have read his speeches. You know, they say he was a dummy. I've read his speeches that were written in his own hand. I mean, I've seen, you know, his handwriting, writing the speeches. This guy was just an amazing man.

LAFFER: He was very intellectual as well. I mean, when you read the book Reagan In His Own Hand, all his letters, it's a huge amount of very deep thinking issues that he put down on paper in longhand.

GLENN: Okay. So we have been so honored that you are releasing this e book with us this week on the Insider at GlennBeck.com. Explain what this is, Art.

LAFFER: This is Reagan's initial action plan of coming into office and how he prepares for it. It's amazing the similarities between 1980, '81, '82 and the current state of the U.S. economy. When we came in back then, the world was in turmoil. The prime interest rate was 21 1/2%. You are probably too young to remember that, Glenn.

GLENN: No, I remember.

LAFFER: The markets were way down, the unemployment rate was way up. It was a disaster. And what it was was how do we get control of this situation and truly correct it. And every single recommendation that was put in there, every single strategy, policy, all of that was exactly the opposite of what Obama's doing. You know, if you let congress take control, you will lose the battle. You will react to things, not proact. And Reagan had it all laid out as literally how we would take control and bring this economy back to prosperity which is exactly what happened.

GLENN: So Art, why hasn't this been released before?

LAFFER: I don't know. I mean, I don't I'm not sure I even read it back then but, you know, it's an amazing document. It does his schedule, all the meetings he does, the press, his speeches, all of that. It's phenomenal.

GLENN: So when you are reading this, I just got my copy late last night, I haven't had a chance to read it yet. But when you read it, are there things there that we can take from it and apply today? Like give us some of the things that in there.

LAFFER: Oh, everything is applicable today. Everything is applicable today. You've got a congress that's out of control, you've got a budget that's out of control, you've got inflation, you've got congress, you have wage and price controls, you had excess profits tax, you had the strike of the controllers, you had all of these problems in there and Reagan coming into office and what our solutions would be would be to cut the tax rate, all economic, Glenn. Everything was focused on how we get a sound dollar, how you get fiscal restraint, low rate, flat taxes, how you get the unions back under control, how you get freer trade. It's just a spectacular document on how you take control of the situation and do it right. And it's exactly the antithesis of what Obama's doing. I mean, both of them have the very great ability for public speaking but the ones using it I think productively in Reagan's case and the other ones, you know, going the wrong way. It's just

GLENN: Yeah, the other one's using it for progressive goals.

LAFFER: Yeah, it is. It's so sad because Obama could be a great, great president if he had the right model, if he had right focus but he doesn't unfortunately.

GLENN: The name of the book is president Ronald Reagan's Initial Actions Project. This is the first time these documents have been unearthed and released and Art Laffer has written a special introduction for it. It is an e book available now only if you subscribe to the e mail or I'm sorry, not the e mail newsletter but the Insider. If you are an Insider, Stu, if you are already an Insider, you get it for free, right? Yeah, I think if you are already an Insider, you get it for free, at least you should be. But if you subscribe to the Insider now, you can get it for free and download it and read it. I'm going to read it myself tonight.

LAFFER: You will love it. You will just love it. It will give you such insight into how Reagan operated because even though these were drafted by other people, it was all Reagan and it was Reagan's plan. You just mentioned, I mean, this man thought everything through. He was really an intellectual.

GLENN: So Art, when you see the situation that we're in right now, you say that it's very similar to what we were in in 1980.

LAFFER: Yes.

GLENN: And I would agree with you there are I mean, all the way down to Iran being held hostage basically. We've got now a hostage in Iran. We have somebody being held by Iran, a journalist. I mean, it's truly amazing the parallels.

LAFFER: Yes.

GLENN: However, when I asked you on the TV show the other night, I would like you to expand on this. You know, the one thing that you could say about Ronald Reagan is that he believed in the free market system but he also ran up a very large debt. I mean, we were outspent. We crushed the Soviet Union because we spent them out of business. I think this is the same strategy that is being used against us. We're spending ourself out of business. And maybe the perpetrator is the one is us. I'm not sure who's trying to do this to us except us. But he ran up a big debt. But what I want to know from you, Art, is the situation is different now because Ronald Reagan's understanding, and I agree with this, debt isn't bad because we all have debt like we have our house or our car. But once you get to a certain point, debt is bad because you can't pay it off.

LAFFER: Well, that's for sure. But, you know, with Ronald Reagan and let me use Milton Friedman's quote here: No one minds debt because when you reduce tax debts and create economic growth, everyone minds debt when you increase spending and reduce the incentives to work. And we were cutting tax rates, creating an economic system of growth that's a very different one. You know, if you can borrow at 3% and lend at 10% risk free, you should borrow all you want. If you can borrow at 10% and lend at 3% and stop borrowing tomorrow and pay it all off. And, you know, with us we had this huge potential for growth. You know, that was not the case when Obama came in. We had had four years of Jimmy Carter running the economy right into the ground, having the hostages held there. But what Reagan did was he cut the highest tax rates way down and got the system growing. Yes, we had deficits, but there were tax rate reduction deficits, not spending on welfare deficits. And it's a huge difference on what they were doing.

GLENN: Well, we spent a lot on defense. Look, I'm not

LAFFER: Yes, we did.

GLENN: I'm not denigrating what Ronald Reagan did. I want to make sure we're accurate on things. There was a huge debt and it wasn't just reduction of tax debt. It was also we spent an awful lot of money. But that was part of the strategy of beating the Soviet Union. What we're doing

LAFFER: We used Jack Kennedy's old phrase on that, putting locks on your doors is not wasted money. And we had fallen way behind the Soviet Union, as you know. The number of allies the U.S. had had been declining throughout the entire post war period. We were on very shaky ground frankly, and Reagan rebuilt the defenses of the U.S. to where frankly we're in great shape today.

GLENN: So Art, do you know of because I've been studying the progressive movement from 1900 to about 1930, 1940, and it's frightening. I don't know if you've ever gone back and read the speeches of Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt. Have you ever done that by any chance?

LAFFER: I have, yes. Both of them are quite shocking, aren't they?

GLENN: Shocking, shocking.

LAFFER: Everybody thinks of Teddy Roosevelt as some hero. Yikes, when you read his speeches, he's Obama back then.

GLENN: I think he's worse.

LAFFER: I think so, too.

GLENN: I think he's worse. But it's the same philosophy that is now running our country.

LAFFER: Yes. But it loses every time, Glenn. Just let me put it this way. I used to tease the real president that I personally thought he was a super genius but my colleagues didn't. But the one thing my colleagues and I agreed on was that anyone following on the heels of Jimmy Carter has to look good and, you know, it is an Obama that will bring us back into strength and refocus us correctly just as you are doing on your TV show and radio show all the time is you are refocusing people on the basic principles.

GLENN: But there is a battle for the soul of the Republican Party right now, and I think the Republican Party, I think honestly both of these parties are about to be destroyed by themselves because there's so much corruption, there's so much lie. They are both, they have both positioned themselves as big government, big spending, big corruption parties, which is totally out of step with the American people. And, you know, there's this debate inside. I'm not really a popular guy. I don't know what the circles are that you run around in but I don't seem to be a real popular guy in the circles of Republicans.

LAFFER: No, you are not but you are in our circles, by the way. And if you look at the Republicans preceding Ronald Reagan, they were awful, too.

GLENN: Okay. So they were doing the same thing? They were doing the same thing?

LAFFER: Wage Nixon is exactly the same as Obama. I mean, I knew Nixon personally. He was a wonderful man but the wage and price controls was very intrusive taking over private business. It's not a partisan issue. It's what you believe in economics.

GLENN: Yeah. And it's whether you bought into the progressive ideas of big bloated government. Pardon me?

LAFFER: The results are awful.

GLENN: Can you tell me, I mean, you have your Ph.D. in what? In economics?

LAFFER: Economics from Stanford University, my undergraduate is Yale, Yale undergraduate, Ph.D. in economics. I taught at the University of Chicago. I went through all the right

GLENN: You don't need to name drop. I get it. (Laughing) okay, here's what I want to ask you. Has there ever been, is there an example where big bloated government, where the government controls everything and tells businesses and controls the banks or at least has this public/private partnership in so many businesses where it has ever worked?

LAFFER: I don't think so. I don't see it working anywhere. It didn't work in the Soviet Union, it hasn't worked in Western Europe. The problem is, Glenn, the only way you can get them out is through a Democratic process and Europe as you know is a lot less Democratic than we are. But when we have both parties going the wrong direction, you know, the people who get it are the continues because they have no choice. We really need a choice in America to overturn this type of fuzzy thinking. The results are always bad.

GLENN: How do we do that? Do you see another Ronald Reagan out there?

LAFFER: Oh, yeah, there are. Never guess Ronald Reagan before. If you'd known him as governor of California, he is the last person on Earth you'd think to be the great president he became.

GLENN: Why would you say that?

LAFFER: Well, Ronald Reagan raised the highest tax rate in California from 9.3 to 11.2, he raised the capital gains tax rate, he raised the corporate tax rate. He led the equal rights amendment, he chaired it. He put in the first antiabortion stats in the State of California. His legislation

GLENN: What happened? Wait, wait, wait, I didn't know that. What happened?

LAFFER: Well, that was when he was there. He put in the first criminal furlough program in U.S. history. I mean, he was not one of us then but you know what he always told me, Glenn, was this. He said, you know, I may not have been a good governor but at least I'm better than those other governors because I learned, and I knew that stuff didn't work. And now I can do the right stuff as president. You never can tell what a great president will be until they really get put into office and sometimes you get surprised both ways. I mean, George Herbert Walker Bush, I was very disappointed in him. Do you mean when he said they will ask me for revenue enhancers and I will tell them read my lips, no new taxes?

GLENN: I mean, the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

LAFFER: Unfortunately.


 

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