Rep. David A. Stockman, a 34-year-old Republican "whiz kid" has inherited the job of fulfilling Ronald Reagan's campaign commitment to cut hard at federal spending, and he will arrive at the Office of Management and Budget next year with his own blueprint in hand.
It is a measure of Stockman's drive and conservative commitment that he wants the pressurized post at OMB and the responsibility for a budget-cutting assignment that could be turned into a nightmare by innumerable political and economic setbacks.
"I've been watching this process for 10 years, seeing the difficulty of injecting new ideas into the political structure," he told a reporter. I've become convinced that OMB is absolutely the best forum possible to carry out that kind of agenda. Everything flows through there."
Stockman's burst through the political ranks in Washington, from a congressional intern to the designation as a future member of Reagan's Cabinet was not an overnight success. It has been 10 years since he arrived as an aide to Rep. John B. Anderson. But Stockman, whose intensity and passion for work make him the Republican mirror-image of Ralph Nader, crammed two or three years worth of experience into each of those 10 years. It helped, too, to be in the right place at the right time. Stockman, whose home is St. Joseph, Mich., had graduated from Michigan State University and was studying at Harvard Divinity School when he attracted the attention of Daniel P. Moynihan and other neo-conservative intellectuals. Moynihan recommended him to Anderson, who was looking for staff help.
Anderson was then chairman of the House Conference Committee, and two years after Stockman joined his staff, Anderson made him director of the committee staff. Stockman was 25, the youngest person ever to hold that job.
That post became a starting point for Stockman's own political career in his home state of Michigan. The incumbent was Rep. Edward Hutchinson, a traditional conservative Republican who had been Richard Nixon's chief defender during the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment hearings.
Stockman persuaded Republican leaders in the district that they needed a different kind of congressional representative, and by the time Hutchinson realized he had a challenger, the battle was over. Hutchinson didn't run for re-election, throwing his support to another candidate in the Republican primary, whom Stockman easily defeated, going on to win the congressional seat in 1976.
In Congress, he soon won a reputation as a conservative who didn't just vote against liberal programs, but challenged the entire philosophical and political framework that produced them.
The campaign to start up a synthetic fuels industry was not merely a billion-dollar pork-barrel project to make members of Congress look good at home, he said once -- it is also "a deliberate attempt to short-circuit the normal process by which capital resources are allocated in our economy."
The network of environmental laws are not only costly and damaging to business, most of them are based on wafer-thin science that can't stand close analysis, he says.
As a representative from Michigan, it wasn't surprising that he led the attack on the federal government's regulation of the automobile, in defense of the five-passenger family car. But as an advocate of less federal involvement in the economy generally, he also opposed federal support for Chrysler, despite its importance to his home state.
His tenacity as a debater made him a natural stand-in to play the part of President Carter during Reagan's private rehearsal at his Virginia farm for the presidential debate in Cleveland.
After the campaign, Stockman resisted overtures from Reagan aides to run the Energy Department, holding out instead for the OMB post. He brings to it his own plan, presented to Reagan's economic advisory group, for making a 2 percent cut in spending during the current 1981 fiscal year and much sharper reductions in the following years to restore the confidence of the financial markets, and then the public, in the Reagan administration's commitment to deal with inflation.
Stockman's roadmap includes changes in eligibility requirements for some of the entitlement programs such as food stamps and delays in federal spending for some public works and other construction programs, from bridge- and dam-building to the space program.
A political realist, he concedes the budget-cutting effort could trigger a "firestorm" of protest. "You could have dead bodies all over," he told reporters recently. But if it works, and the Reagan economic program succeeds, it will put the Republican Party on top for years to come, he says. s