Martin Gross, 88; critic of big government

Mr. Gross advocated for a lean, efficient government.
Holland Wemple/New York Times/File 1978
Mr. Gross advocated for a lean, efficient government.

NEW YORK — Martin L. Gross, 88, a writer whose books criticizing government spending and taxation became bestsellers in the 1990s and were embraced more recently by supporters of the Tea Party, died Aug. 21 in Ocala, Fla.

A longtime friend, Alberto Oliva, said that Mr. Gross had several strokes recently.

Mr. Gross was a newspaper reporter, edited small magazines, and wrote books critical of psychiatry, psychotherapy, and the medical care system before he took aim at the federal government in 1992, finding it a swamp of bureaucratic waste and political corruption in the book “The Government Racket: Washington Waste from A to Z.”


The book found an audience, appealing to fiscal conservatives and libertarians in the same year that Ross Perot drew surprising support in his third-party bid for president by arguing against government bloat.

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Arizona Senator John McCain sometimes carried the book with him and mentioned it in public, and by late summer 1992 it had jumped onto national bestseller lists. Mr. Gross was invited to testify before congressional committees.

“There used to be a very efficient federal government,” he said in a 1992 interview on C-Span, referring to what he called the “small lean machine” of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. “It’s been invaded by theorists, academicians, spendthrifts, congressmen who want to spend money.”

Mr. Gross advocated what he called “a peaceful revolution, a velvet revolution.” But, he added, “the people have to become outraged enough.”

“We got outraged against the Soviet and we won,” he added. “We’ve got to do what Jefferson wanted us to do, which is return government to the people.” Two years later he was back with another bestseller, “The Tax Racket,” in which he argued for eliminating the Internal Revenue Service.


Mr. Gross, who also wrote novels, stopped writing for several years before returning in 2009 with “National Suicide: How Washington Is Destroying the American Dream From A to Z.” The book arrived just as the Tea Party was gaining in popularity, and Mr. Gross, well into his 80s, became a guest on conservative TV and radio shows.

Mr. Gross founded the magazine Intellectual Digest in 1970 and was editor of Book Digest. Information on survivors was not immediately available.

Critics accused him of being loose with numbers and statistics. But Mr. Gross accused his critics of being sympathetic to the institutions he criticized.