Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Bush, the big spender (unless it might help poor people)

with 4 comments

Bush is willing to spend any amount, just so long as the money doesn’t go to help the poor or the ill (vetoes of stem-cell research, S-CHIP expansion). Take a look:

Bush spends

George W. Bush, despite all his recent bravado about being an apostle of small government and budget-slashing, is the biggest spending president since Lyndon B. Johnson. In fact, he’s arguably an even bigger spender than LBJ.

“He’s a big government guy,” said Stephen Slivinski, the director of budget studies at Cato Institute, a libertarian research group.

The numbers are clear, credible and conclusive, added David Keating, the executive director of the Club for Growth, a budget-watchdog group.

“He’s a big spender,” Keating said. “No question about it.”

Take almost any yardstick and Bush generally exceeds the spending of his predecessors.

When adjusted for inflation, discretionary spending — or budget items that Congress and the president can control, including defense and domestic programs, but not entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare — shot up at an average annual rate of 5.3 percent during Bush’s first six years, Slivinski calculates.

That tops the 4.6 percent annual rate Johnson logged during his 1963-69 presidency. By these standards, Ronald Reagan was a tightwad; discretionary spending grew by only 1.9 percent a year on his watch.

Discretionary spending went up in Bush’s first term by 48.5 percent, not adjusted for inflation, more than twice as much as Bill Clinton did (21.6 percent) in two full terms, Slivinski reports.

Defense spending is the big driver — but hardly the only one.

Under Bush it’s grown on average by 5.7 percent a year. Under LBJ — who had a war to fund, too — it rose by 4.9 percent a year. Both numbers are adjusted for inflation.

Including costs for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense spending under Bush has gone up 86 percent since 2001, according to Chris Hellman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

Current annual defense spending — not counting war costs — is 25 percent above the height of the Reagan-era buildup, Hellman said.

Homeland security spending also has soared, to about $31 billion last year, triple the pre-9/11 number.

But Bush’s super-spending is about far more than defense and homeland security.

Brian Riedl, a budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group, points to education spending. Adjusted for inflation, it’s up 18 percent annually since 2001, thanks largely to Bush’s No Child Left Behind act.

The 2002 farm bill, he said, caused agriculture spending to double its 1990s levels.

Then there was the 2003 Medicare prescription drug benefit — the biggest single expansion in the program’s history — whose 10-year costs are estimated at more than $700 billion.

And the 2005 highway bill, which included thousands of “earmarks,” or special local projects stuck into the legislation by individual lawmakers without review, cost $295 billion.

“He has presided over massive increases in almost every category … a dramatic change of pace from most previous presidents,” said Slivinski.

The White House counters by noting that Bush took office as the country was heading into a recession, then reeled from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“This president had to overcome some things that required additional spending,” said Sean Kevelighan, a White House budget office spokesman.

Bush does have other backers.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a conservative research group, blamed a ravenous Congress that was eager to show constituents how generous it could be. (Republicans ran that Congress until January. Bush never vetoed a single GOP spending bill.)

The White House points out that, nearly four years ago, Bush vowed to cut the deficit in half by 2009, and he’s well on his way to achieving that goal. The fiscal 2004 deficit was a record $412.7 billion; the 2007 figure plunged to $163 billion.

But the deficit drop may be fleeting, experts say, since lawmakers are likely to extend many of Bush’s tax cuts, which expire by the end of 2010, and the imminent retirement of the baby boom generation will send Medicare and Social Security costs soaring in the years ahead.

Now, near the end of the seventh year of his presidency, Bush is positioning himself as a tough fiscal conservative.

He says Congress is proposing to spend $22 billion more in fiscal 2008 than the $933 billion he requested for discretionary programs — and that the $22 billion extra would swell over five years to $205 billion.

Eventually, Bush said, “they’re going to have to raise taxes to pay for it.”

And so, the president told an Arkansas audience earlier this month, people should brace for “what they call a fiscal showdown in Washington.

“The Congress gets to propose and, if it doesn’t meet needs as far as I’m concerned, I get to veto,” he said. “And that’s precisely what I intend to do.”

Bush is getting tough on fiscal policy — after running up a record as the most profligate spender in at least 40 years.

“The spending did happen,” said Keating, “and a lot of it shouldn’t have happened.”

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2007 at 11:36 am

4 Responses

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  1. This explains, to a large degree, why Bush’s approval numbers are so bad. Every single thing he has done in office could credibly have been done by Bill Clinton, including Iraq, including the No Child Left Behind Act, including the Prescription Drug plan, even including (although unlikely) the relatively small tax cuts. Conservatives and fiscally responsible libertarians did not intend to elect a Bill Clinton policy clone. At the end of the day, if you want a truly drunken spending government, elect a democrat since they know how to do it right (i.e., use the government to reward rent-seeking behavior by their own constituents here at home rather than to run a foreign war that isn’t profitable for anyone except Halliburton).



    25 October 2007 at 10:14 am

  2. Interesting. You say it all could have been done by Bill Clinton, though of course under Bill Clinton the budget was balanced and we had a government surplus—which was thrown away on large tax cuts for the wealthy and an endless land war in Iraq. I am amazed that you would believe that Bill Clinton could have done anything like what Bush has done. Let me remind of you of the secrecy that came into being under Bush, the overt politicization of the Executive branch, including the Department of Justice, the utter failure of the Federal response to Katrina, the continued appointment of partisans to head programs that they oppose, the absolute unwillingness to find bipartisan compromise, the continued refusal to allow Congressional oversight, the disastrous foreign policy, the embrace of torture for interrogations, the hiring of mercenaries (including granting them immunity for their actions), the spying on citizens, … The list is long, and could be made longer. Your statement that Bill Clinton would have done all that is astonishing. Bill Clinton was, after all, in office for eight years and he did not do such things.

    The financial disaster of the Bush Administration is due totally to the GOP. We had a GOP president and a GOP Congress. How then can you say that the GOP is fiscally responsible? I guess you simply say it, the truth be damned.



    25 October 2007 at 10:23 am

  3. Ahh. First, look at my post again — the reason Bush is faring so badly is because he is behaving worse than the democrats. Notwithstanding that much of the increase in domestic spending was from Ted Kennedy dream legislation like the education act (only Kennedy just wanted more money without any accountability) or the prescription drug plan (a democrat wet dream), Bush spends money like a drunken buffoon. Thus, democrats hate him because he’s not a democrat. Conservatives and fiscally responsible libertarians dislike him because he’s worse than the democrats thought they could get away with.

    The rest of your list, however, is laughable. Bill Clinton was an open government type? You’ve got to be kidding. Maybe in the sense that he was more willing to lie, dissemble, and give out disinformation, so the apparent information flow was higher. Maybe in the sense that he and Hillary used the executive branch to obtain confidential FBI files on their political opponents.

    Politicization of the executive branch? It doesn’t even make sense. The only branch that hasn’t traditionally been politicized is supposedly the judiciary, although the democrats have largely managed that. It’s interesting how an absolutely partisan liberal judge like Ginsburg sailed through confirmation, and yet a moderate like Roberts or Alito gets skewered.

    Katrina? Again, you’ve got to be kidding. A democrat mayor and a democrat governor absolutely screw up every possible aspect of state emergency management–which has always been a state responsibility–and they blame it on Bush. And talking about politicization, I’ll note that Bill Clinton was responsible for ramping up the federal share of disaster relief and waiving state contributions as payoffs for votes in disaster-stricken areas.

    Bipartisanship? Democrats and leftists have a funny sense of that word. Apparently they think it means agreeing with Democrats, and any principled stand to the contrary is just racism, sexism, or, in the last resort, just plain lack of bipartisanship.

    Congressional oversight. Exactly where in the Constitution does it say that Congress controls the president?

    You’re free to have your own opinion on foreign policy. All I remember is Madeline Albright saying that as long as we have all this military power we might as well use it. And yet where was she in Rwanda? Foreign policy under Clinton apparently meant selling secrets to the Chinese and favorable trade deals to illegal indonesian donors.

    At the end of the day, Bill Clinton got lucky. He happened to be president during an amazing economic expansion that he did nothing to foster and managed not to hinder. That it left the economy in a shambles and caused an incredible congressional overreaction in the sarbanes oxley act is something that leftists conveniently gloss over. At the end of the day he was a secretive, absolutely corrupt, power-hungry rapist. Every single thing that Bush has done, could also have been done by Clinton and democrats and leftists would be defending him to the bitter end. For democrats, I’m convinced that the brand name is more important than the substance. Bush’s low poll numbers among conservatives and libertarians provide evidence that they at least are willing to clean house.

    Last off, your post crosses the line with the typical leftist tactic of attacking my veracity, sanity, or legitimacy. Which means this post is now an opus since there’s no real reason to continue to read or post on this blog. Too bad, because it was actually interesting for a while.



    25 October 2007 at 2:38 pm

  4. I don’t know whether you noticed, but 3 of the top 5 spenders were GOP presidents.

    Second, one major problem with the prescription drug plan is that the law did not allow the government to negotiate for better prices with the drug companies—and that was totally a GOP idea. The Democrats actually like the government to negotiate lower prices.

    Under Bill Clinton, the FOIA was observed and more things were declassified, and he cooperated with Congress. For example, his aides regularly appeared before Congress when called and gave testimony. He did not blanket everything in “executive privilege”.

    Since you were busy with your book, you probably missed the number of US Attorneys who were dismissed because they were not “loyal Bushies” and replaced with those who were. Applicants for the DoJ were quizzed about their political affiliation, though that is illegal. Appointments in the Executive have routinely been given to partisans and lobbyists, not to those who were actually knowledgeable and competent. Scientific reports that conflict with the Executive’s ideology are suppressed and revised. This is all well known.

    Really, you’re ignoring so much that it’s pointless to respond—especially since you won’t read the response. If you take the GOP as the model of bipartisanship, there’s no reaching you. Too bad, because you on the whole seemed intelligent.



    25 October 2007 at 2:50 pm

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