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Look Beyond Reagan When Judging '80s

November 15, 1992

"History May Judge Reaganomics Very Harshly" (Nov. 8), by James Risen, says that "Ultimately, Reaganomics was a failure (even though it) may have contributed to rapid economic growth during the 1980s." Say what? Maybe we need more failures like this.

How soon we forget the double-digit inflation and double-digit interest rates during the Carter Administration. Is it all President Reagan's fault? Did we not elect the President and the Congress that let this happen? OK, we changed Presidents, but the Congress is still intact.

Reaganomics, Risen writes, gave us an "overall economy (that) shined brightly for a few years (during the 1980s) . . . because of ephemeral bursts of consumption brought on by heavy deficit spending." This doesn't sound too bad. The debt is too big, so we cannot bail out the economy? Is this some kind of natural law? It seems President-elect Bill Clinton has no choice. We have reached the limit. We must have a balanced budget.

Risen continues: "But the damage done to the budget by tax cuts, the defense buildup and the uncontrolled growth in Medicare and other entitlements could not be undone by later tax hikes." President Carter let the military go down the tubes. It took more money to build it up again because of (Carter's) neglect. Has anybody seen the Berlin Wall? Can you tell me where it's gone?

"Faced with crushing debt burdens," Risen writes, "the federal government was unable to respond with any kind of fiscal stimulus when an inevitable business cycle slowdown arrived in 1990." This is a good argument for counter-cyclical budgeting: In good times, save; in bad times, spend from savings. Our leaders in Washington and Sacramento do not promote this.

This recession is not just a U.S. problem. It is global. All economic philosophies are in trouble right now. Looks like this problem will have to be solved in a different way. We will have to use our brains, not our brawn. We cannot rely on our leadership. We must get involved with the solution, or be part of the problem.

W. CLIFFORD ISHII

La Palma

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