The text for today's sermon comes from the Book of David and Donald, Chapter '82. Read, brother:
"It was the year of 1982, the month of February, in the second year of the glorious reign of King Ronald of Hollywood. And the kingdom was troubled. The Great Congress had decreed that taxes should be cut for three straight years and domestic-spending waste ended and the Pentagon enlarged, all good things. But the recession had come down like a lion on the flock, and the deficit was growing, not disappearing, as the king had promised.
"Now on the day the new budget was released, David the Stockman came before the scribes to explain what had happened in the year since King Ronald had promised the budget would be balanced by 1983, possibly, and if not, for sure by 1984. In all the kingdom, no one knew more about the numbers than David the Stockman. People said it was as if he made them up from his own head.
"And David said on Feb. 6, 1982: 'The point we are making here is that these deficits have a different cause and a different significance. They arise from a different fiscal environment. The deficit is largely a product of the transition from past fiscal policy and economic conditions to a wholly new economic environment in which inflation will be declining steadily and growth will recover; in which financial markets will slowly adjust and interest-rate premiums will slowly come down; and in which past spending commitments will steadily shrink.'
"And David added: 'I keep reading descriptions of the expected deficits with words behind them like staggering, towering, gigantic, huge, etc. But those terms are accurate only if you ignore the fact that there has been enormous change in the scale of numbers that we worked with over the last four or five years. They are not huge in the context of the $3.3 trillion gross national product. . . .'
"Lo, the scribes heard these words and were amazed. Some shook their heads in wonder. And some were skeptical. But David had studied at Harvard, and David had stood the Congress on its ear, so David must know.
"But one of the scribes was a hard case, and he asked, 'How do you justify continued deficits in the $90 billion range when you are at peace and you have a robust economy?'
"And Donald the Regan, the sage of Wall Street and keeper of the exchequer, came forward and spoke in reply: 'The answer to that is that we have other programs that we are trying to put in place. We have let our defense establishment run down over the last seven years or so. As a result, we have to build up that defense establishment. That is the area where we will be spending money.'
"The scribes looked perplexed, so Donald the Regan spoke again: 'The additional cuts in the budget, as David pointed out, merely slow down the rate of growth in outlays for social purposes. So we will be spending more on social purposes. Those two items we consider to be necessary at least for the good of the United States. Accordingly, we are willing to take those deficits in an effort to do both at the same time.'
"The scribes still looked dubious, so Donald added: 'It is preferable to close the transitional recession deficits of the sort now being experienced by borrowing rather than taxing. . . . Some have urged us to revoke the incentive- creating tax cuts already in place. The result would have been lower real growth for many years into the future. . . . That alternative was not seriously considered.'
"And now it is 1985, and just as David and Donald had said, the tax cuts were continued, and the defense spending did increase, and so did the social spending, for King Ronald was loath to take away from those his age and those who vote.
"And just as David and Donald had said, the economy did flourish, and the stock market soared, and the people acclaimed King Ronald with his favorite chant, 'Four more years.'
"And once again, it is February, and once again, the scribes have gathered, and once again, David the Stockman, who knows more about the numbers than anyone in the kingdom, has come forward to explain why the deficits have not gone away but have grown like weeds.
"And now, Donald the Regan, promoted for his excellence in story-telling to be the King's first lord of the bedchamber, joins David the Stockman in telling the whole country that the deficits are a terrible danger; that King Ronald despises them; that he and David have fought those deficits just as hard as they could from their first day in office; and that the Awful Congress, ruled over by the Terrible Tip, is to blame for the deficits' being out of control.
"And, sad to say, some of the scribes will still be skeptical."