Arthur Laffer has a simple theory of politics. It's about as simple as his theory of economics, which has been guiding Republican presidential candidates for nearly 40 years now. The economic theory says that the lowest, simplest tax code will produce the most growth. The political theory goes like this: Politicians crave love from voters. So if you want to get a politician to do what you think is right, give him a plan he can easily sell, and make sure that plan will deliver a lot of crowd-pleasing economic growth.
Laffer, the legendary supply-side economist, is certain that 2016 is the year his political and economic theories align -- producing a wave election for Republicans, then the most aggressive tax-cutting legislation since Ronald Reagan was president, then massive growth and finally, a generational lock on Washington for the GOP.
And the beauty of it is, he thinks any candidate in the current Republican crop could deliver those results. It's simply a matter of combining their need to be loved with a tax plan he is certain voters will adore.
“Each one of these candidates, in my mind, has the natural resources, whatever it is, to be a good president" - and implement pro-growth policies, Laffer said in a recent interview.
"The way I view candidates and describe them," he added, "is, they are people who had bad mommies. You and I, with our parents, were instilled with these values, where you know if you did a good job or you didn’t… These guys didn’t get that type of value system. So they always look to external approbation for self-fulfillment. If a politician gives a speech and everyone boos, they change their speech. That’s what they’re supposed to do. Ideologues don’t make good presidents.”
In Laffer's economic theories, there are no fancy regression analyses. There are simply the intersecting lines that any introductory-course student would recognize, supply and demand and the bad incentives - particularly taxes - that muck with the free market.
In his political calculations, there is only economics and history. There are no polls; he said he does not understand them, so he does not look at them.
His economic calculations have led him to believe that the U.S. economy is primed, after a decade of slow growth and middle-class income stagnation, to grow rapidly - it just needs a big tax reform bill that would lower rates and eliminate most deductions. His political calculations lead him to believe that American voters are hungering for that growth, and for a candidate to propose a simple plan to achieve it. When hopefuls come to visit them, he tells them to pitch the simplest possible version of his plan - or, failing that, to just promise to restore tax rates to what they were in the Reagan heyday.
“My advice to these people is as follows," he said. "Don’t go into the weeds. You don’t have a chance.”
What he wants them to promise is, put simply, another Reagan Revolution. He is certain it is coming, at the ballot box and in the economy. This is Laffer's unshakeable belief: that once voters elect a supply-side acolyte to the White House, massive growth will follow. That growth will please voters. Voters will reward the president's party. And Republicans, he predicts, will go on to enjoy a generation-long lock on Washington - until, he says, voters forget the power of supply-side economics, and the cycle begins again.