Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bush: No Bill Clinton

From Reason magazine, one of my latest favorites... and it's not even a liberal magazine, but a libertarian one! Conservatives, don't let the title of the magazine, or the Numbers below, frighten you. Heres the link: Bush the Budget Buster. If you're still working hard to maintain the illusion of the Republican party as the champion of small government, keep your eyes closed.

Selected kibbles and bits:
During his five years at the helm of the nation's budget, the president has expanded a wide array of "compassionate" welfare-state, defense, and nondefense programs. When it comes to spending, Bush is no Reagan. Alas, he is also no Clinton and not even Nixon. The recent president he most resembles is in fact fellow Texan and legendary spendthrift Lyndon Baines Johnson—except that Bush is in many ways even more profligate with the public till.

Comparing Bush to his predecessors is instructive. Bush and Reagan both substantially increased defense spending (by 44.5 and 34.8 percent respectively). However, Reagan cut real nondefense discretionary outlays by 11.1 percent while Bush increased them by 27.9 percent. Clinton and Nixon both raised nondefense spending (by 1.9 percent and 23.1 respectively), but they both cut defense spending substantially (by 16.8 and 32.2 percent).

Bush and LBJ alone massively increased defense and nondefense spending. Perhaps not coincidentally, Bush and LBJ also shared control of the federal purse with congressional majorities from their own political parties. Which only makes Bush's performance more troubling. Like a lax parent who can't or won't discipline his self-centered toddler, he has exercised virtually no control whatsoever over Congress.

When confronted by its spendthrift ways, the Bush administration argues that much of the increase in nondefense spending stems from higher homeland security spending. It's true that most homeland security spending is tallied under nondefense discretionary spending. Yet when homeland security spending is separated out, the increase in discretionary spending is still huge: 36 percent on Bush's watch.

To be sure, Congress shares the blame for runaway spending in the past five years. Yet Bush has not vetoed a single spending bill during his tenure in office. To the contrary, he has signed every bill crossing his desk, including huge education, farm subsidy, and transportation bills. He has made only the most feeble efforts to rein in pork-barrel spending or offset new programs with cuts in existing ones.

It seems incontestable that we should conclude that the country's purse is worse off when Republicans are in power.