Reagan's whiz kid Stockman: no one knows the budget better
They certainly are keeping the Reagan whiz kid whizzing. David Stockman, sometimes called "David the Budget Killer," had breakfast with one group of newsmen Oct. 5, met with another group of visiting out-of-town editors later that day, and today has two appearances before congressional committees.
As he talked, lectured, and answered technical questions, he looked down a long avenue with no end to his efforts in sight. This young budget director simply seems to know more about the budget than anybody else. He is the youngest Cabinet member in the 20th century. He is Mr. Reagan's economic point man, the intermediary between the White House, the Congress, the press, and the public as he tries to help bring about a revolution: contracting the government instead of expanding it. Is there a balanced budget at the end of the federal economic rainbow? Nobody knows.
Mr. Stockman talks in millions, billions, and occasionally trillions. When he was named budget director, he read the entire 613-page document, page by page , line by line, table by table. It took him a week or two. The thrust at first was to trim expenditures and revitalize business by cutting taxes, relaxing regulations.
But there was another little problem: The administration had decided to do all this and boost defense expenditures, too. Can it do it? Wall Street was expected to catch fire but hasn't. Ten months after taking office the administration sees the stock and bond markets down, foreign countries complain about American 20 percent interest rates, and the automobile and construction industries are in recession.
How about young Stockman? At close view at a breakfast gathering he looks a little weary but unbowed. A new series of questions are asked: How will the new arms program affect the budget? Why isn't Wall Street responding to administration tax cuts? Does he really think budget balancing in fiscal year 1981 is feasible?
The questions are so scattered, the answers so fast, the material so technical that reporters as they finish their gobbleddown eggs and bacon shake their heads sadly and say "no lead" (a newspaper phrase meaning there is no dominant headline in the Stockman outpouring). Stockman whizzes to his next engagement.
Stockman has sharp features: hair down to his collar; owl-like glasses; quick , natural gestures, and an intellectual candlepower that dazzles laymen. His field is so specialized that he must use economic jargon like GNP (gross national product) M-1B (basic money supply consisting of currency and checking accounts) and similar phrases.