On with Larry Kudlow Tonight on His Last Show!

March 28th, 2014 at 5:06 pm

It’s with no small sadness that tonight will be the last time I get to mix it up with my good friend Larry Kudlow on his final show tonight at 7 on CNBC.

For more than a decade, Larry and I have disagreed without being disagreeable.  I will always deeply appreciate his kindness to me and his openness to at least hearing my ideas–very different from his own–on the political economy.

I remember my very first interview as an economist for the Obama administration.  They told me it was with Larry and said, “You sure you want to talk to him first?”  I was very sure, and after about 30 seconds, we were back into it like we’d never missed a beat.

So, after all these years, is there anything Larry and I agree on?  Sure:

–Growth is essential and solves a whole lot of other problems.  I’d say growth is necessary but not sufficient in terms of raising the living standards of the poor and middle class.  Larry might say it’s both.

–Simplify the tax code.  And that’s where our tax agreements probably end.  He’s a dyed-in-the-wool supply-sider, and while I’ve busted his chops on trickle-down (and how it doesn’t work) over the years, I haven’t come anywhere close to changing his mind.

–Government needs to be a better implementer.  We strongly disagree on the role of government, but we agree that when the public sector does something, it needs to do it well.  False starts, lack of clarity, wasteful and inefficient implementation are to be assiduously avoided.

–Maybe I’m reaching a bit here, but I think he may kinda sorta recognize a role for temporary fiscal and monetary stimulus, and even the safety net, when the market fails.  But he’d run that stuff far more temporarily than I would.

–Capitalist economies are better than all the other alternatives.

One other thing.  I know very few conservative economists as consistent as Larry.  He’s one of the few get-the-gov’t-out-of-the-way types who’s willing to go there even when it means whacking the rich.  For example, around the bailouts, there were a lot of anti-government types who were happy to take the government’s cash–you know, socialism for the rich, capitalism for everyone else types.  That’s not Larry.

He’s not leaving the scene and I’m sure we’ll continue to have it out on the airwaves.  But if I may say so without being self serving, I think that over the years Larry and I have crafted a pretty good model for constructive conversation and debate between people who fundamentally disagree.  Frankly, I’m not sure how we move forward as a nation without a lot more people having those conversations, and I’m going to miss them.

Update: My pal Jimmy P, also on the show tonight, has this great tribute to Larry on his blog.

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4 comments in reply to "On with Larry Kudlow Tonight on His Last Show!"

  1. Tom in MN says:

    On growth solving poverty, this disagrees:


    So it seems not only does wealth not trickle down, it does not even lift all boats.

    On government being a better implementer. Note that all the exchange failures have been outsourced to big corporations. Yes oversight could be better, but it seems these companies exist to take money out of government while giving the least back. What we need to fix is the bid process that makes it too complicated for newcomers — or just go back to having the government hire the programmers, etc, and avoid paying any crazy CEO salaries and advertising overhead altogether. The idea that private does it better is a myth.

  2. JC says:

    Not sure you’re right about his anti-bailout stance. I’m rather sure I heard him agree with it when the banks were being saved. He changed his mind when the WS bonuses were challenged. He defended them by saying “you can’t reneg on a contract,” but he is ok with ripping up union contracts when they suit businesses– or so I’ve intrepreted some of his stances. Not saying he’s a bad man or anything, but there are inconsistencies.

  3. smith says:

    I would take issue with a few points. You write:
    “–Capitalist economies are better than all the other alternatives.”
    Huh? I thought mainstream economists would say we have a mixed economy, capitalist and socialist. Of course, the direct involvement of the government in the economy grew ever more larger and apparent following the 2008 bailout of the banks, insurance industry, and auto industry. But Social security alone would be enough to classify the U.S. as a mixed economy, let alone, medicare, medicaid, and education. While it’s true the U.S. government tries to avoid the appearance of outright government ownership of business, what do you call it when the largest banks and the world they do business with know that the full credit of the U.S. government and tax revenue stands behind them. Those banks have higher standing than a subsidiary that might be sold or allowed to fail. Saying we have a capitalist instead of mixed economy distorts public perception of the true nature of our society and distorts discussion of future policy. It hides the current advantages of corporations and the rich who are backed by the government, and plays into the hands of the politicians, Democrats and Republicans, bought and paid for by them, who hide the true nature of the system.

    –Simplify the tax code.
    The tax code is already simple for most people. Their tax is deducted from their paycheck. At the end of the year, they usually get a refund. Thanks to the EITC, if they have children, there is probably a tax credit due them they often don’t know about. If they make a lot of money, live in a high tax state with lots of services, or own a home, they might have itemize deductions. Tax accountants need to make a living too.
    Simplify is simply a mantra of the rich to lower their taxes, as Reagan and Bradley showed in their 1980’s act, road to inequality.
    Never say tax without mentioning restoring top marginal rates, effective corporate rates, estate taxes, taxing carried interest, qualified dividend as income, and restoring capital gains rates, if not outright treating as income too.