Dick Armey

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Dick Armey on NBC's Meet the Press.

Richard Keith "Dick" Armey (born July 7, 1940 in Cando, North Dakota) is a former U.S. Representative from Texas' 26th Congressional District (19852003) and House Majority Leader (19952003). He was one of the architects of the "Republican Revolution" of the 1990s, in which Republicans were elected to majorities of both houses of Congress, and the chief author of the Republican Contract with America.


[edit] From academia to Congress

Armey, a member of the Republican Party and former economics professor at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) in Denton, was first elected to the House in 1984, defeating freshman congressman Tom Vandergriff in a considerable upset (Vandergriff is well-known in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, most notable for bringing the Texas Rangers to the area) to represent the relatively new 26th District (created in 1982).

During his time in Congress, he conceived the independent nonpolitical commission that became responsible for identifying those military bases to be closed as a cost-cutting measure. Armey, an ally of Newt Gingrich, has been one of Congress's fervent supporters of privatization of Social Security and phasing-out of farm subsidies. He is a strong supporter of replacing the progressive tax levels with a single or flat tax rate. However, Armey is very critical of a competing tax reform proposal that would replace the current system with a national sales tax, the FairTax.

In 1994, Armey, then House Republican Conference Chairman, joined Minority Whip Newt Gingrich in drafting the Contract with America. Republican members credited this election platform with the Republican takeover of Congress, rewarding Gingrich with the position of Speaker and Armey with the number two position of House Majority Leader. Gingrich delegated to Armey an unprecedented level of authority over scheduling legislation on the House floor, a power traditionally reserved to the Speaker. However, some charge that Armey was involved in a 1997 attempt to oust Gingrich as Speaker [1], something Armey has strongly denied.

In 1995 Armey also wrote a book, Freedom Revolution (ISBN 0-89526-469-2).

In 1998, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, a reporter asked him what he would do if he were in President Bill Clinton's position. He replied "If I were in the President's place I would not have gotten a chance to resign. I would be laying in a pool of my own blood, hearing Mrs. Armey standing over me saying, 'How do I reload this damn thing?'" [2] That same year, after Gingrich was forced to resign from the House after heavy Republican losses in the midterm elections, Armey had to fend off a bruising challenge for his majority leader post from Steve Largent of Oklahoma. Still, Armey served another four years before announcing his retirement in 2002. In his last legislative effort, he was named chairman of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security and was the primary sponsor of the legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security.

Armey's words would sometimes get him in trouble. On May 1, 2002, during an interview on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews (transcript), Armey called for a homeland for the Palestinians outside of Israel, which the American Arab Anti Discrimination Committee interpreted as a call for ethnic cleansing. He was also criticized when he called openly homosexual Congressman Barney Frank, 'Barney Fag', although he said it was a slip of the tongue.

According to Armey, he also sparred with Focus on the Family leader James Dobson while in office. Armey wrote, "As Majority Leader, I remember vividly a meeting with the House leadership where Dobson scolded us for having failed to 'deliver' for Christian conservatives, that we owed our majority to him, and that he had the power to take our jobs back. This offended me, and I told him so." Armey claims that Focus on the Family targeted him politically after the incident, writing, "... Focus on the Family deliberately perpetuates the lie that I am a consultant to the ACLU."

As a free-market economist influenced by the ideas of Milton Friedman, Armey favored relatively open immigration and the elimination of barriers to the movement of goods and people across national boundaries.

After Armey's retirement, fellow Texan and Republican Tom DeLay, then House Majority Whip, was elevated to hold Armey's Majority Leader position. Armey's son, Scott, ran for his father's seat in the 2002 election, but lost in the Republican Party runoff to Michael C. Burgess, who would go on to hold the strongly Republican 26th District for the GOP in November.

[edit] The Armey-Curve

The Armey-Curve is the effect of Public Spending on Economic Growth (see the image here). Armey argues that non-existence of government causes a state of anarchy and low levels of wealth creation, because of the absence of the rule of law and protection of property rights. In civilizations with extremely small or non-existing public sectors, citizens lack the incentives to save and invest. The absence of the rule of law and continuous threat of theft or expropriation has demotivating effects. Also the total lack of collective infrastructure leads to poor productivity and consequently low levels of wealth creation.

Similarly, when all input and output decisions are in the hands of the authorities, wealth creation is also very low. As Laffer argued before, citizens then also have very little incentive to productive contribution, considering the authorities confiscate the total yield of their efforts. However, wherever there is a mix of private and government initiative on the allocation of resources, output will tend to grow. Initially as the public sector builds up, the wealth creation will gradually grow larger. A state of law and order is being installed, collective infrastructure such as roads, bridges and means of communication are being built, all contributing to increased productivity. Also the installation of education structures and social programs destined at preventing the exclusion of disabled boost wealth creation. This evolution is projected as the part of the curve between Points A and Point B. In the early stages of development, the productivity of well conceived collective spending is mostly higher than the average productivity of private spending. Therefore, such public spending will lead to higher wealth creation.

Nevertheless, additional public projects increasingly lose their productivity advantage over private investment, whilst the heavier tax burden needed for financing government increasingly demotivate citizens to productive contribution. Social programs also loose their growth effect when they tend to provide incentives to leave the productive sector rather than preventing exclusion.

Growth-enhancing features of government spending gradually diminish and further expansion of government spending beyond the Armey-optimal point B, does no longer lead to output expansion. At that point, the marginal productivity of public spending equals the marginal productivity of private spending, and the benefits from increased government spending become zero. Beyond this optimal point B additional government spending lead to ever lower wealth creation, as ever more scarce resources are withdrawn from the private sector, where they could have been used more productively. (Evolution from Point B to Point C.). The shape of the Armey-curve therefore has a similar shape as the Laffer curve, the optimum however being at a substantially lower taxation level than the Laffer optimum. (see The Path to sustainable Growth - Lessons from 20 Years Growth Differentials in Europe)

[edit] After Congress

Recently, Armey joined the Washington office of the law firm DLA Piper (formerly DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary) as a senior policy advisor. [3] Armey is also the firm's co-chairman of its Homeland Security Task Force. [4]

In 2003, Armey became co-chairman of Citizens for A Sound Economy, which in 2004 merged with Empower America to become FreedomWorks. "FreedomWorks" is a common Armey saying and the organization is dedicated to advancing a "Freedom Agenda" of "lower taxes, less government, and more freedom." FreedomWorks claims 700,000 members nationwide and full time staff in 10 states. In his role as Chairman, Armey continues to be a national political figure and grassroots leader. He travels widely, meeting with activists and legislators. In 2005, for example, he testified before the President's Advisory Panel on Tax Reform and debated Colorado Gov. Bill Owens on a tax increase ballot measure.

Also in 2003, Armey published "Armey's Axioms."

In 2006, the book Hubris included Armey as an on-the-record source, claiming to have been initially reluctant to support the George W. Bush administration's call for war with Iraq, and to have warned President Bush that Iraq might be a "quagmire." Armey said that the intelligence presented to him in support of the war appeared questionable, but he gave Bush and Cheney the benefit of the doubt.

[edit] Quotes

  • "I've been to Europe once. I don't have to go again."

[edit] Comic references

[edit] External links

[edit] Other Source

Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War by Michael Isikoff and David Corn (Crown 2006)

Preceded by:
Dick Gephardt
House Majority Leader
Succeeded by:
Tom DeLay
Preceded by:
Tom Vandergriff
U.S. Representative for Texas' 26th Congressional District
Succeeded by:
Michael C. Burgess

Dick Armey

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