WASHINGTON — President Trump bestowed the nation’s highest civilian honor on the conservative economist Arthur Laffer on Wednesday, praising him for policies that he said brought “greater opportunity for all Americans.”
Mr. Laffer is the father of so-called supply-side economics and the namesake of the Laffer Curve, which posits that reducing certain tax rates can actually increase government tax revenues by accelerating economic growth. He helped write Mr. Trump’s campaign tax plan and has advised the president on economic policy. He is also the mentor of Larry Kudlow, the director of the White House National Economic Council.
Mr. Laffer’s relentless and sunny advocacy of tax cuts, deregulation and free trade has influenced decades of Republican policy proposals, most famously under President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Democrats have criticized him for repeatedly promising that tax cuts would deliver growth and revenues that did not appear, such as damaging state tax cuts in Kansas that produced a large shortfall in the state budget and prompted the Republican-controlled state legislature to ultimately reverse them.
In a ceremony in the Oval Office, with Mr. Laffer’s six children in attendance, Mr. Trump said “I’ve heard and studied the Laffer Curve for many years.” He called the theory, which Mr. Laffer famously sketched on a napkin in the 1970s for Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, then Republican policy hands, “a very important thing you did, Art.”
“Few people in history have revolutionized economic theory like Arthur Laffer,” Mr. Trump said.
“Academics called his theory insanity, totally wacky and completely off the wall,” he said. “With optimism, confidence and exceptional intellect, Art would go on to prove them all wrong on a number of occasions.”
Mr. Trump also took the occasion to praise the performance of the United States economy, including unexpectedly strong growth figures for the first quarter of this year, which economists expect to slow in the quarters to come. “Our economy has never, ever been stronger than it is today,” he said.
Mr. Laffer is the author of a fawning book about Mr. Trump’s economic policies, “Trumponomics.” That book was written with Stephen Moore, another Trump adviser and Laffer disciple, whom Mr. Trump said he would nominate to the Federal Reserve board this year but who withdrew from contention after Republican senators raised objections.
Mr. Laffer, Mr. Moore and Mr. Kudlow pushed Mr. Trump early in his presidential run to propose large tax cuts, for individuals and corporations, saying they would fuel a sharp acceleration in economic growth, to above 4 or 5 percent a year. Mr. Trump did usher through a giant $1.5 trillion package of cuts in 2017, which helped spur about 3 percent economic growth in 2018. But they did not generate more federal tax revenues and have instead contributed to a widening budget deficit that is on pace to top $1 trillion this year.
Mr. Laffer’s award ceremony was attended by several of his longtime allies in the decades-long push for tax cuts at all levels of government, including Mr. Moore, former presidential candidate Steve Forbes and Mr. Kudlow, who championed to Mr. Trump the idea of awarding Mr. Laffer the medal. When Mr. Trump praised supply-side economic policies, Mr. Kudlow let out a low “yee-haw.”
Mr. Laffer, accepting the award, praised a wide range of economists and politicians who advocated tax cuts, including Mr. Cheney, the economist Milton Friedman, former Representative Jack Kemp, Presidents Reagan and John F. Kennedy and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, along with Mr. Trump. He also praised his family.
“And all I can say is wow,” Mr. Laffer said.