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The Joint Economic Committee in the Early 1980s: Keynesians versus Supply-Siders

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 December 2014

Bruce Bartlett*
Great Falls, Virginia


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Policy Retrospective
Copyright © Donald Critchlow and Cambridge University Press 2015 

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1. Bailey, Stephen K., Congress Makes a Law (New York, 1950).Google Scholar; Santoni, G. J., “The Employment Act of 1946: Some History Notes,” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review 68, no. 9 (1986)Google Scholar; Bradford DeLong, J., “Keynesianism, Pennsylvania Avenue Style: Some Economic Consequences of the Employment Act of 1946,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 10, no. 3 (1996).Google Scholar

2. Senator Joseph O’Mahoney of Wyoming chaired the TNEC and was also the first chairman of the JEC.

3. Being a joint committee, the JEC had ten members from the House of Representatives and ten senators, with the chairmanship alternating between the House and Senate every two years. There were six members from the majority party in each house and four from the minority.

4. Tavlas, George S., “The Chicago Tradition Revisited: Some Neglected Monetary Contributions: Senator Paul Douglas (1892–1976),” Journal of Money, Credit and Banking 9, no. 4 (1977).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

5. “The Making of a Maverick,” Time, 16 January 1950, 18; Kaiser, Charles, “Former Sen. Paul Douglas Dies; Liberal Illinois Democrat Was 84,” New York Times, 25 September 1976, 15.Google Scholar

6. Mooney, Richard E., “Report Criticizes U.S. Fiscal Policy,” New York Times, 29 December 1959, 1;Google Scholar Christ, Carl F., “An Evaluation of the Economic Policy Proposals of the Joint Economic Committee of the 92nd and 93rd Congresses,” in Institutions, Policies, and Economic Performance, ed. Brunner, Karl and Meltzer, Allan (New York, 1976), 1549;Google Scholar Christ, Carl F., “The Economic Policy Proposals of the Joint Economic Committee of the 94th and 95th U.S. Congresses,” Journal of Monetary Economics 5, no. 3 (1979).Google Scholar

7. Other notable alumni of the JEC staff include Otto Eckstein, who went on to become a professor of economics at Harvard and founded the economic consulting company DRI; Jerry Jasinowski, who was president of the National Association of Manufacturers from 1990 to 2004; Courtenay Slater, who was chief economist for the Department of Commerce during the Carter administration; Bob Davis, a member of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the 1980s; and Ed Gillespie, who was chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2003 to 2005. For a lighthearted look at the JEC staff during the mid-1970s, see Fromson, Brett, Running and Fighting: Working in Washington (New York, 1981).Google Scholar

8. Joint Economic Committee, The Federal Tax System: Facts and Problems, 1964 (Washington, D.C., 1964)Google Scholar;Joint Economic Committee, Federal Tax Policy for Economic Growth and Stability (Washington, D.C., 1956).Google Scholar Ture also wrote an important but little-known essay for the JEC in 1980 that is his fullest technical exposition of supply-side economics: Norman B. Ture, “The Economic Effects of Tax Changes: A Neoclassical Analysis,” in Joint Economic Committee, Stagflation: The Causes, Effects, and Solutions, Special Study on Economic Change, vol. 4 (Washington, D.C., 1980), 316–47.

9. Norton, Hugh S., The Quest for Economic Stability, 2nd ed. (Columbia, S.C., 1991), 261–88.Google Scholar

10. Art Pine, “JEC: Actor on Hill Seeking New Role,” Washington Post, 30 April 1978, F1.

11. Hughes, Kent, Building the Next American Century (Washington, D.C., 2005), 118–19.Google Scholar

12. Americans for Democratic Action, “Comments on the Joint Economic Committee Report for 1979,” 15 July 1979.

13. Ehrbar, A. F., “Bill Miller Is a Fainthearted Inflation Fighter,” Fortune, 31 December 1978, 4043;Google Scholar Farnsworth, Clyde H., “Miller’s Monetary Policy—How Tight?New York Times, 7 January 1979, AS7.Google Scholar

14. Hobart Rowen, “Reagan Economics: Adam Smith Redoux [sic],” Washington Post, 4 May 1980, G1.

15. Leonard Silk, “Major Change in Theory Seen,” New York Times, 5 March 1980, D2. See also Steven Rattner, “Joint Economic Panel’s New Thrust,” New York Times, 18 February 1980, D1; Steven Rattner, “Congress Unit Asks $25 Billion Tax Cut and Spending Curbs,” New York Times, 29 February 1980, A1; John M. Berry, “Hill Economic Committee Breaks with Carter, Seeks Tax Cut,” Washington Post, 29 February 1980, A15.

16. Rattner, Steven, “Economic Panel Splits on Policy,” New York Times, 27 February 1980, D1.Google Scholar

17. Congressional Record, 12 March 1980, 5313–14.

18. Goldwasser, Thomas, “Liberal’s Liberal Mitchell Is Fiscal Conservative,” Washington Post, 15 September 1980, 23.Google Scholar

19. Weintraub, Robert E., “Congressional Supervision of Monetary Policy,” Journal of Monetary Economics 4, no. 2 (1978).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

20. James L. Rowe Jr., “Money Supply Growth Linked to Inflation,” Washington Post, 9 June 1976, D9; James L. Rowe Jr., “Fed Feels Lonesome as It Fights on Two Fronts,” Washington Post, 10 September 1978, F3; James L. Rowe Jr., “Monetary Juncture Critical,” Washington Post, 14 January 1979, H20; Clyde H. Farnsworth, “Fed Weighs Naming Woman as One of Its 7 Board Members,” New York Times, 8 March 1978, D1.

21. Timothy P. Roth, An Economic Analysis of the Reagan Program for Economic Recovery (Washington, D.C., 1981). It was reviewed in Bernard D. Nossiter, “The Economics of Reaganomics,” The Nation, 4 July 1981, 7–8. See also Roth, Timothy P., Supply Side Tax Cuts, Monetary Restraint, and Economic Growth (Washington, D.C., 1983).Google Scholar

22. One of the members of the Democratic staff later wrote about the competitive nature of the JEC in those days: Mark Bisnow, In the Shadow of the Dome (New York, 1990), 229–40.

23. Atkinson went on to become chief economist for the Bank of Montreal in Canada.

24. Berry, John M., “Volcker Stays Firm on Tight-Money Plan,” Washington Post, 27 February 1981, D1.Google Scholar

25. Hall, Robert E. and Rabushka, Alvin , “A Proposal to Simplify Our Tax System,” Wall Street Journal, 10 December 1981, 30.Google Scholar The flat tax was less original an idea than it seemed at the time. Milton Friedman and Bill Buckley, among others, had promoted the idea in principle for years. SeeFriedman, Milton, “A Simple Tax Reform,” Newsweek, 18 August 1980, 68;Google Scholar Buckley, William F., Four Reforms: A Guide for the Seventies (New York, 1973), 47–71.Google Scholar The really important contribution that Hall and Rabushka made was to marry a flat rate to a pure consumption tax base along the lines that David Bradford had suggested in U.S. Treasury Department, Blueprints for Basic Tax Reform (Washington, D.C., 1977).

26. Hale, David, “Rescuing Reaganomics,” Policy Review (Spring 1982): 5769.Google ScholarThis journal was then the flagship publication of the Heritage Foundation, and this article got a lot of attention.

27. David S. Broder, “Stockman: President May Seek a Flat-Rate Income Tax for All,” Washington Post, 22 June 1982, A8; Associated Press, “Reagan ‘Tempted’ by Flat-Rate Tax,” New York Times, 7 July 1982, A1.

28. Ronald Reagan, “Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Briefing on Federalism for State and Local Officials in Los Angeles, California,” 6 July 1982.

29. Joint Economic Committee, The Flat Rate Tax (Washington, D.C., 1983)Google Scholar.

30. Jane Seabury, “Critics Say Joint Economic Committee Has Lost Its Influence,” Washington Post, 28 September 1986, H2; Rivlin, Alice, “Economics and the Political Process,” American Economic Review 77, no. 1 (1987): 7.Google Scholar

31. Kosterlitz, Julie, “Polemical Panel,” National Journal, 27 April 1996, 927–30.Google Scholar Mack appointed his principal political adviser, Mitch Bainwol, as executive director of the JEC. Bainwol later became CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America.