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Jude Wanniski, 69; Journalist and Political Consultant Pushed Supply-Side Economics

Times Staff Writer

Jude Wanniski, a former journalist turned political consultant who helped popularize supply-side economics and infuse it into President Reagan’s political agenda, has died. He was 69.

He died Monday at Morristown Memorial Hospital in Morristown, N.J., of an apparent heart attack, according to his company, Polyconomics Inc.

Wanniski took credit for coining the term “supply-side economics” when he was writing editorials espousing the theory for the Wall Street Journal in the early 1970s.

Supply-side economics holds that cutting taxes spurs production and prosperity.

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It has been recognized as a politically useful interpretation of the old “classical” economic concept that supply creates its own demand.

In 1978, Wanniski published the book “The Way the World Works: How Economies Fail -- and Succeed,” which became the bible of supply-side economics.

Malcolm S. “Steve” Forbes Jr., in a review for his family’s Forbes magazine, wrote at the time that the book “could do for the Republican Party what Marx’s manifesto did for communism.... Moreover, unlike Marx, Wanniski ... is easy reading.”

The National Review cited the book as one of the 100 most influential of the 20th century.

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In the mid-1970s Wanniski buttonholed politicians, including Republican Rep. Jack Kemp, author of major tax cut legislation, and Reagan, urging them to incorporate supply-side economics as a central issue in the 1980 presidential race.

According to Wanniski’s website, Reagan praised him in 1988 in the comment: “Economic truth is a lever that can move governments, move history.... The economic model that we’ve created truly has become what Jude Wanniski described as ‘the way the world works.’ ”

Wanniski, who left the Wall Street Journal a few months after his book was published, established his New Jersey-based Polyconomics Inc. in 1978 to publish his writing, including critical reviews of the news media, and to offer his services full time as a political and economic consultant.

He continued to work with politicians until his death.

In 1996 Wanniski was persuasive in rallying support and convincing Forbes to carry the supply-side banner into the presidential race.

During the ill-fated Forbes campaign, Wanniski told the Los Angeles Times that he had been present when former USC and University of Chicago classical economist Arthur Laffer first sketched the Laffer Curve on a napkin at a Washington, D.C., meeting.

The Laffer Curve, which showed that at a certain point the raising of tax rates would produce lower total revenues, was cited extensively during the Reagan campaign and administration.

The curve was a graphic illustration of the supply-side theory of economics.

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The theory sharply countered John Maynard Keynes’ consumer-oriented economic model, popular with Democrats since Franklin D. Roosevelt used it to lift the country out of the Depression.

It holds that production and prosperity flourish when government spending is increased.

Although Wanniski was known as a conservative Republican, he also tried to peddle supply-side economics to members of President-elect Jimmy Carter’s staff in 1976.

And last year, he angered many Republicans by endorsing Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry over incumbent President Bush.

In the early 1990s, Wanniski raised both liberal and conservative eyebrows when he became a supporter of Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan.

He also irked leaders by offering supportive comments about former Iraq leader Saddam Hussein.

In addition to frequent articles and a regular newsletter, Wanniski edited the book-length “The 1987 Media Guide: A Critical Review of the News Media’s Recent Coverage of the World Political Economy” and wrote the 1999 book “The Last Race of the Twentieth Century.”

Born June 17, 1936, in Pottsville, Pa., where his father was a coal miner, Wanniski grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and attended Brooklyn College before earning a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in journalism at UCLA.

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In addition to working for the National Observer from 1965 to 1972 and the Wall Street Journal from 1972 to 1978, Wanniski was a political columnist for the Las Vegas Review Journal from 1961 to 1965.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia, and three adult children from a previous marriage, Matthew, Jennifer and Andrew.


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