Jude Wanniski
Jude Thaddeus Wanniski was an American journalist
Journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience in a timely fashion. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to inform the intended audience. Along with covering organizations and institutions such as government and...

, conservative commentator, and political economist.

Early life and education

Wanniski was born in Pottsville, Pennsylvania
Pottsville, Pennsylvania
Pottsville is the only city in and the county seat of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 15,549 at the 2000 census. The city lies along the west bank of the Schuylkill River, north-west of Philadelphia...

, where his father had been an itinerant butcher. When he was still very young, his family moved to Brooklyn, where his father became a book binder. His grandfather was a Pennsylvania coal miner and a dedicated Communist who gave his grandson a copy of Das Kapital for his high school graduation.

Wanniski graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School
Brooklyn Technical High School
Brooklyn Technical High School, commonly called Brooklyn Tech or just Tech, and also administratively as High School 430, is a New York City public high school that specializes in engineering, math and science and is the largest specialized high school for science, technology, engineering, and...

 in 1954, and enrolled at Brooklyn College
Brooklyn College
Brooklyn College is a senior college of the City University of New York, located in Brooklyn, New York, United States.Established in 1930 by the New York City Board of Higher Education, the College had its beginnings as the Downtown Brooklyn branches of Hunter College and the City College of New...

. He transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, Los Angeles
The University of California, Los Angeles is a public research university located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, USA. It was founded in 1919 as the "Southern Branch" of the University of California and is the second oldest of the ten campuses...

, where he received a B.A. degree in political science and then earned a master's in journalism.


After college, Wanniski worked as a reporter and columnist in Alaska. From 1961 to 1965 he worked at The Las Vegas Review-Journal as a political columnist from 1961 to 1965, where he taught himself economics as he learned card counting.

In 1965, Wanniski moved to Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, to work as a columnist for the National Observer
National Observer
The National Observer was a weekly American newspaper published by Dow Jones & Company from 1962 until 1977. Hunter S. Thompson wrote several articles for the National Observer as the correspondent for Latin America early in his career....

, published by Dow Jones.

From 1972 to 1978, Wanniski was the associate editor of The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal is an American English-language international daily newspaper. It is published in New York City by Dow Jones & Company, a division of News Corporation, along with the Asian and European editions of the Journal....

, the part of his career for which he is perhaps best known. He left after being discovered at a New Jersey train station distributing leaflets supporting a Republican senatorial candidate, an act considered an ethics violation.

In 1978 Wanniski started Polyconomics, an economics forecasting firm, where he and his analysts advised corporations, investment banks and others.

He also began directly advising politicians on economic policy, first candidate Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

 and later presidential hopefuls Jack Kemp
Jack Kemp
Jack French Kemp was an American politician and a collegiate and professional football player. A Republican, he served as Housing Secretary in the administration of President George H. W. Bush from 1989 to 1993, having previously served nine terms as a congressman for Western New York's 31st...

 and Steve Forbes
Steve Forbes
Malcolm Stevenson "Steve" Forbes, Jr. is an American editor, publisher, and businessman. He is the editor-in-chief of business magazine Forbes as well as president and chief executive officer of its publisher, Forbes Inc. He was a Republican candidate in the U.S. Presidential primaries in 1996...

. He helped design the tax cuts made during Reagan's first term in office. His formal role as a Reagan adviser ended after an interview he gave to the Village Voice was published under the headline "The Battle for Reagan's Mind."

In 1997 Wanniski founded the online learning center known as the "Supply-Side University".

Polyconomics as a corporation ceased operations on June 30, 2006, ten months after Wanniski's death, but the name (a combination of "politics" and "economics") lives on at The Polyconomics Institute, where one can find the Wanniski's collected works for Polyconomics, as well as correspondence with economic policy makers, and lectures. "Supply-Side University" is also part of that institute.

Economic and political beliefs

Wanniski consistently advocated the reduction of trade barriers, the elimination of capital gains taxes, and a return to the gold standard
Gold standard
The gold standard is a monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is a fixed mass of gold. There are distinct kinds of gold standard...


Lower taxes

Wanniski was instrumental in popularizing the ideas of lower tax rates embodied in the "Laffer Curve
Laffer curve
In economics, the Laffer curve is a theoretical representation of the relationship between government revenue raised by taxation and all possible rates of taxation. It is used to illustrate the concept of taxable income elasticity . The curve is constructed by thought experiment...

," and was present in 1974 when Arthur Laffer
Arthur Laffer
Arthur Betz Laffer is an American economist who first gained prominence during the Reagan administration as a member of Reagan's Economic Policy Advisory Board . Laffer is best known for the Laffer curve, an illustration of the theory that there exists some tax rate between 0% and 100% that will...

 drew the curve on the famous napkin for Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney
Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney served as the 46th Vice President of the United States , under George W. Bush....

 and Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Henry Rumsfeld is an American politician and businessman. Rumsfeld served as the 13th Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford, and as the 21st Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2006 under President George W. Bush. He is both the youngest and the oldest person to...


Over the years, Wanniski repeatedly emphasized high tax rates as the cause of poverty in Africa
Poverty in Africa
Poverty in Africa refers to the lack of basic human needs faced by certain segments of African society. African nations typically fall toward the bottom of any list measuring small size economic activity, such as income per capita or GDP per capita, despite a wealth of natural resources...

. Wanniski collected details about the tax structures of various countries in Africa and explained how they were limiting the progress of the poor. These observations ended up as part of an episode of The West Wing
The West Wing (TV series)
The West Wing is an American television serial drama created by Aaron Sorkin that was originally broadcast on NBC from September 22, 1999 to May 14, 2006...


The Two Santa Claus Theory

The Two Santa Claus Theory is a political theory and strategy published by Wanniski in 1976, which he promoted within the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 Republican Party
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...


The theory states that, in democratic elections, if one party appeals to voters by proposing more spending, then a competing party cannot gain broader appeal by proposing less spending. The first "Santa Claus" of the theory title refers to the political party that promises spending. Instead, "Two Santa Claus Theory" recommends that the competing party must assume the role of a second Santa Claus by offering some other appealing options.

This theory is a response to the belief of monetarists, and especially Milton Friedman
Milton Friedman
Milton Friedman was an American economist, statistician, academic, and author who taught at the University of Chicago for more than three decades...

, that the government must be starved of revenue in order to control the growth of spending (since, in the view of the monetarists, spending cannot be reduced by elected bodies as the political pressure to spend is too great).

The "Two Santa Claus Theory" does not argue against this belief but holds that such arguments cannot be espoused to try to win democratic elections. In Wanniski's view, the Laffer curve
Laffer curve
In economics, the Laffer curve is a theoretical representation of the relationship between government revenue raised by taxation and all possible rates of taxation. It is used to illustrate the concept of taxable income elasticity . The curve is constructed by thought experiment...

 and supply-side economics
Supply-side economics
Supply-side economics is a school of macroeconomic thought that argues that economic growth can be most effectively created by lowering barriers for people to produce goods and services, such as lowering income tax and capital gains tax rates, and by allowing greater flexibility by reducing...

 provide an attractive alternative rationale for revenue reduction: that under reduced taxation the economy will grow, not merely that the government will be starved of revenue, and that that growth is an attractive option to present to the voters. Wanniski argued that Republicans must become the tax-cutting Santa Claus to the Democrats
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

' spending Santa Claus.

The Way the World Works

Wanniski's 1978 book, The Way The World Works, documented his theory that the US Senate's floor votes on the Smoot-Hawley tariff
Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act
The Tariff Act of 1930, otherwise known as the Smoot–Hawley Tariff was an act, sponsored by United States Senator Reed Smoot and Representative Willis C. Hawley, and signed into law on June 17, 1930, that raised U.S. tariffs on over 20,000 imported goods to record levels.The overall level tariffs...

 legislation coincided day-to-day with the Wall Street stock market Crash of 1929
Wall Street Crash of 1929
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 , also known as the Great Crash, and the Stock Market Crash of 1929, was the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States, taking into consideration the full extent and duration of its fallout...

, and that the Great Depression was the result of the Smoot-Hawley tariff, rather than any failure of classical economics.


Wanniski is also notable for his journalism on the non-existence of weapons of mass destruction
Weapons of mass destruction
A weapon of mass destruction is a weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans and/or cause great damage to man-made structures , natural structures , or the biosphere in general...

 (WMD) in Iraq. As early as 1997, Wanniski posted columns on his website alleging that after November 1991, UNSCOM inspectors had never found WMD in Iraq, and in fact had found and destroyed all of Iraq's WMD programs with the help of Saddam's regime in the months following the first Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

. Wanniski not only recognized the prospective importance of the Iraqi WMD question before other journalists, he argued correctly that Iraq didn't have any WMD and stated that the U.S. would never allow UNSCOM to end the inspections regime no matter what Iraq did.

He became a somewhat controversial figure in the conservative movement at the beginning of 2003 when he vocally opposed the impending US war with Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

. On October 27, 2004, he publicly denounced George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

, saying that "Mr. Bush has become an imperialist — one whose decisions as commander-in-chief have made the world a more dangerous place". Eventually Wanniski endorsed the 2004 Democratic candidate, John Kerry
John Kerry
John Forbes Kerry is the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, the 10th most senior U.S. Senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election, but lost to former President George W...

, although he clearly preferred the Republican platform on issues related to taxation.

Wanniski's last published work was an article for the 2005 IHS Press
IHS Press
IHS Press is a publishing house based in Virginia whose mission is to promote the social teaching of the Catholic Church. The name "IHS" is a truncation of the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus Christ. IHS Press has been particularly concerned with the promotion of the social teaching...

 anti-war anthology, Neo-Conned!.


Wanniski has been credited with coining the term supply-side economics
Supply-side economics
Supply-side economics is a school of macroeconomic thought that argues that economic growth can be most effectively created by lowering barriers for people to produce goods and services, such as lowering income tax and capital gains tax rates, and by allowing greater flexibility by reducing...

 to distinguish the revival in classical economic thought from the more dominant "demand-side" Keynesian
Keynesian economics
Keynesian economics is a school of macroeconomic thought based on the ideas of 20th-century English economist John Maynard Keynes.Keynesian economics argues that private sector decisions sometimes lead to inefficient macroeconomic outcomes and, therefore, advocates active policy responses by the...

 and monetarist
Monetarism is a tendency in economic thought that emphasizes the role of governments in controlling the amount of money in circulation. It is the view within monetary economics that variation in the money supply has major influences on national output in the short run and the price level over...

 theories. But he told a friend that the actual phrase should be credited to Herbert Stein
Herbert Stein
Herbert Stein was a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and was on the board of contributors of The Wall Street Journal. He was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Nixon and President Ford. From 1974 until 1984, he was the A...

, for Stein's phrase "supply-side fiscalists."

The rising GOP star Jack Kemp
Jack Kemp
Jack French Kemp was an American politician and a collegiate and professional football player. A Republican, he served as Housing Secretary in the administration of President George H. W. Bush from 1989 to 1993, having previously served nine terms as a congressman for Western New York's 31st...

 became a supply-side economics advocate due to Wanniski's tutelage, and would work to put his proposals into legislative practice.

The Way the World Works initiated a revival in classical economics
Classical economics
Classical economics is widely regarded as the first modern school of economic thought. Its major developers include Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus and John Stuart Mill....

 and was named one of the 100 most influential books of the 20th century by National Review
National Review
National Review is a biweekly magazine founded by the late author William F. Buckley, Jr., in 1955 and based in New York City. It describes itself as "America's most widely read and influential magazine and web site for conservative news, commentary, and opinion."Although the print version of the...

magazine. Conservative commentator Robert D. Novak said, in the introduction to the 20th anniversary edition (1998) of the book, that it was one of two books that "shaped [Novak's] mature philosophy of politics and government." (Whittaker Chambers
Whittaker Chambers
Whittaker Chambers was born Jay Vivian Chambers and also known as David Whittaker Chambers , was an American writer and editor. After being a Communist Party USA member and Soviet spy, he later renounced communism and became an outspoken opponent later testifying in the perjury and espionage trial...

' Witness is the other.)

Starting in 1987, Wanniski edited an annual "Media Guide" in which he rated pundits on a four-star scale. Some conservatives, such as George F. Will and Norman Podhoretz
Norman Podhoretz
Norman B. Podhoretz is an American neoconservative pundit and writer for Commentary magazine.-Early life:The son of Julius and Helen Podhoretz, Jewish immigrants from the Central European region of Galicia, Podhoretz was born and raised in Brownsville, Brooklyn...

 received only a single star.

In 1998, Wanniski attempted to foster dialogue between Louis Farrakhan
Louis Farrakhan
Louis Farrakhan Muhammad, Sr. is the leader of the African-American religious movement the Nation of Islam . He served as the minister of major mosques in Boston and Harlem, and was appointed by the longtime NOI leader, Elijah Muhammad, before his death in 1975, as the National Representative of...

 and those who had labeled him anti-Semitic
Antisemitism is suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. According to a 2005 U.S...

. He arranged for Farrakhan to be interviewed by reporter Jeffrey Goldberg
Jeffrey Goldberg
Jeffrey Mark Goldberg is an American journalist. He is an author and a staff writer for The Atlantic, having previously worked for The New Yorker. Goldberg writes principally on foreign affairs, with a focus on the Middle East and Africa...

 who had written for the Jewish weekly The Forward
The Forward
The Forward , commonly known as The Jewish Daily Forward, is a Jewish-American newspaper published in New York City. The publication began in 1897 as a Yiddish-language daily issued by dissidents from the Socialist Labor Party of Daniel DeLeon...

and the New York Times. The extensive interview was never published in either publication, and Wanniski post it on his website in the context of a memo to Senator Joseph Lieberman.


Wanniski died of a heart attack on August 29, 2005, in Morristown, New Jersey
Morristown, New Jersey
Morristown is a town in Morris County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the town population was 18,411. It is the county seat of Morris County. Morristown became characterized as "the military capital of the American Revolution" because of its strategic role in the...

, while working at his desk. He was survived by his wife, Patricia, and children Matthew, Arnold, and Jennifer Harlan.

At the time of his death, Wanniski was at the low point of his political influence, according to longtime friend Robert Novak
Robert Novak
Robert David Sanders "Bob" Novak was an American syndicated columnist, journalist, television personality, author, and conservative political commentator. After working for two newspapers before serving for the U.S. Army in the Korean War, he became a reporter for the Associated Press and then for...

. He was running his economic consultancy from its Morristown offices. He spoke of having many Wall Street clients, although he complained that some had left due to his politics. He posted personal commentaries several times a week on his personal website, on topics ranging from international politics and trade policy to reviews of films.

External links

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