Bruce Reeves Bartlett (born October 11, 1951) is an American historian whose area of expertise is supply-side economics. He served as a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and as a Treasury official under George H. W. Bush.
Bartlett has written several books and magazine articles critical of the administration of George W. Bush, whose economic policies he believes significantly departed from traditional conservative principles.
Early life and education
Bartlett was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the son of Marjorie (Stern) and Frank Bartlett. He was educated at Rutgers University (B.A., 1973) and Georgetown University (M.A., 1976). He originally studied American diplomatic history under Lloyd Gardner at Rutgers and Jules Davids at Georgetown. He did a considerable amount of research on the origins of the Pearl Harbor attack, doing a master's thesis on the topic at Georgetown, the substance of which was later published as Coverup: The Politics of Pearl Harbor, 1941–1946. He was closely advised by Percy Greaves, who had been the Republican counsel to the congressional committee investigating the Pearl Harbor attack in 1946.
In 1976, Bartlett changed careers, going to work for U.S. Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas). Bartlett spent much of his time working with the House Banking Committee, of which Paul was a member. This involved Bartlett in economic issues. Paul was defeated when he ran for re-election in November 1976.
In January 1977, Bartlett went to work for U.S. Congressman Jack Kemp (R-New York) as a staff economist. Bartlett spent much of his time on tax issues, helping to draft the Kemp-Roth tax bill, which ultimately formed the basis of Ronald Reagan's 1981 tax cut. Bartlett's book, "Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action" appeared in 1981 (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House Publishers). He also co-edited the book The Supply-Side Solution (Chatham, NJ: Chatham House Publishers, 1983).
In 1978, Bartlett went to work for Perry Duryea, who was the Republican candidate for governor of New York. Duryea was defeated in November and Bartlett returned to Washington, where he joined the staff of newly elected Senator Roger Jepsen (R-Iowa).
In 1981, Jepsen became Vice chairman of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress and Bartlett became deputy director of the committee's staff. Jepsen became chairman in 1983 and Bartlett became executive director of the JEC. During this period, the committee was very active in promoting Ronald Reagan's economic policies.
In late 1984, Bartlett became vice president of Polyconomics, a New Jersey-based consulting company founded by Jude Wanniski, a former Wall Street Journal editorial writer, that advised Wall Street clients on economic and investment policy. Bartlett left in 1985 to become a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, where he specialized in tax policy and was particularly involved in the debate around the Tax Reform Act of 1986.
George H. W. Bush administration
In 1987, Bartlett became a senior policy analyst in the White House Office of Policy Development, then headed by Gary Bauer. He left in 1988 to become the deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department, where he served until the end of the George H. W. Bush administration.
Afterwards, Bartlett worked briefly at the Cato Institute in 1993. From 1993 to 2005, Bartlett was affiliated with the National Center for Policy Analysis, a free-market think tank based in Dallas, Texas.
Since 1995, he has written a newspaper column for Creators Syndicate, based in Los Angeles, and written extensively for many newspapers and magazines, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fortune magazine, and Commentary magazine. He currently blogs at Capital Gains and Games.
Bartlett wrote a column in the Fiscal Times on June 21, 2013 opposing both the Baseline Reform Act of 2013 (H.R. 1871) and the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act of 2013 (H.R. 1874). The Pro-Growth Budgeting Act of 2013 (H
Criticism of George W. Bush administration economic policy
In 2005, the National Center for Policy Analysis fired Bartlett for his outspoken criticism of President George W. Bush.
In 2006, he published Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy (ISBN 0-385-51827-7), which is critical of the Bush Administration's economic policies as departing from traditional conservative principles. He compared the second Bush to Richard M. Nixon as "two superficially conservative presidents who enacted liberal programs to buy votes for reelection."
In August 2009, Bartlett wrote a piece for the Daily Beast in which he attributed the global financial crisis and following recession to George W. Bush and Republicans, whose policies he claimed resulted in an inferior record of economic performance to those of President Clinton. In the same editorial, Bartlett wrote that instead of enacting meaningful healthcare reform, President Bush pushed through a costly Medicare drug plan by personally exerting pressure on reluctant conservatives to vote for the program. Bartlett claimed that because reforming Medicare is an important part of getting health costs under control generally, Bush could have used the opportunity to develop a comprehensive health-reform plan and that "[b]y not doing so, he left his party with nothing to offer as an alternative to the Obama plan." Bartlett concluded:
Until conservatives once again hold Republicans to the same standard they hold Democrats, they will have no credibility and deserve no respect. They can start building some by admitting to themselves that Bush caused many of the problems they are protesting."
In his 2009 book, The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward, Bartlett defends Keynesian economic policies, stating that while supply-side economics was appropriate for the 1970s and 1980s, supply side arguments do not fit contemporary conditions.
In a 2013 article for The American Conservative, Bartlett explains that after conducting research for the book, he "came to the annoying conclusion that Keynes had been 100 percent right in the 1930s," that "we needed Keynesian policies again," and that "no one has been more correct in his analysis and prescriptions for the economy's problems than Paul Krugman," a prominent Keynesian economist.
During an interview on CNN on August 19, 2011, Bartlett stated that presidential candidate Rick Perry "is an idiot, and I don't think anybody would disagree with that." The comment was in reference to Perry's earlier assertion that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's actions would be "almost treasonous" if the Federal Reserve were to engage in expansionary monetary policy before the 2012 election in order to stimulate the economy.
Criticism of "Fair Tax" proposal
In an August 2007 The Wall Street Journal op-ed, Bartlett criticized the FairTax proposal as misleading and unlikely to simplify taxpaying. Bartlett was especially critical of what he states are FairTax's accounting tricks in rate calculation and proponent claims that "real investment spending would rise 76%" if their plan were adopted. A sponsor of the plan, Representative John Linder acknowledged Bartlett's point that the Church of Scientology had proposed a national sales tax, but said that the FairTax movement was independent of the Church of Scientology and Bartlett had confused them with the Scientology-affiliated Citizens for an Alternative Tax System. Another sponsor of the plan, Leo Linbeck, was critical of Bartlett's article, claiming he used "red herrings" and provided false information on the plan and research. In September 2007, Bartlett wrote an article for The New Republic, where he continued his criticism of the FairTax, including his claim that the idea of a national sales tax to replace income taxes originated with the Church of Scientology.
Bartlett lives in Great Falls, Virginia. He is a member of the American Economic Association and the Committee for Monetary Research and Education.
- Bruce R. Bartlett, The Keynesian Revolution Revisited, Committee for Monetary Research and Education, 1977.
- Bruce R. Bartlett, Cover-Up: The Politics of Pearl Harbor, 1941–1946, Arlington House Productions (1978) ISBN 978-0-87000-423-0
- Bruce R. Bartlett, Reagonomics: Supply-side economics in action, Arlington House (1981) ISBN 978-0-87000-505-3, Random House Value Publishing (March 24, 1982) ISBN 978-0-517-54817-2
- Bruce R. Bartlett and Timothy Roth, The Supply Side Solution, Chatham House (October 1983) ISBN 978-0-934540-18-6, Palgrave Macmillan (September 27, 1984) ISBN 978-0-333-37364-4
- Bruce R. Bartlett, Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, Doubleday (February 21, 2006) ISBN 978-0-385-51827-7
- Bruce R. Bartlett, Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party's Buried Past, Palgrave Macmillan (January 8, 2008) ISBN 978-0-230-60062-1, Palgrave Macmillan (January 6, 2009) ISBN 978-0-230-61099-6
- Bruce R. Bartlett, The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward, Palgrave Macmillan (October 13, 2009) ISBN 978-0-230-61587-8
- Bruce R. Bartlett, The Benefit and the Burden: Tax Reform – Why We Need It and What It Will Take, Simon & Schuster (January 24, 2012) ISBN 978-1-4516-4619-1
- Contributor to
- The First Year: A Mandate for Leadership Report, Heritage Foundation, 1982.
- Supply Side Economics, Aletheia Books, 1982.
- Agenda '83: A Mandate for Leadership Report, Heritage Foundation, 1983.
- The Federal Debt: On-Budget, Off-Budget, and Contingent Liabilities: A Staff Study, U.S. G.P.O., 1983.
- The Industrial Policy Debate, Institute for Contemporary Studies, 1984.
- Beyond the Status Quo, Cato Institute, 1985.
- Articles in National Review, Human Events, Conservative Digest, and Modern Age, and to newspapers. Contributing editor of Libertarian Review.