Wednesday, September 21, 2005

George Bush bigger spender than LBJ?

According to Nick Gillespie at Reason Magazine, this is indeed the case:

For that, look to discretionary spending—which is made up of defense and all other non-entitlement spending. When you stick to discretionary spending, a slightly different, but hardly better, picture emerges. Richard Nixon, for instance, cut total discretionary spending 15.2 percent, the first George Bush cut it by 3.2 percent, and Bill Clinton by 8 percent in his first term (all three accomplished this by reducing defense spending). Other than that, it's always been onward and upward. Even Ronald Reagan boosted discretionary spending in both of his terms—by 8.2 percent in the first and 7 percent in the second.

Those figures come by way of the American Enterprise Institute's Veronique de Rugy, who has calculated that George W. Bush has boosted total inflation-adjusted discretionary spending in his first term by 35.1 percent. To put that in context, chew on this: LBJ—the Texas legend who created the Great Society and, for all intents and purposes, the Vietnam War—only boosted discretionary spending 33.4 percent. What's more, the gap between Bush and LBJ will only grow. De Rugy notes that the final outlays for fiscal year 2005 (the last budget signed in Bush's first term) aren't in yet. As a result, she has to use mid-session review numbers, which are invariably smaller than the final amounts. And, she says, the number for FY2005 "does not take under consideration the numerous supplemental passed this year, and the new spending triggered by the Katrina disaster."

Isn't Bush the son of another ex-president who calls Texas home? Yet here he is, the prodigal, spendthrift son not of George Herbert Walker Bush but of Lyndon Baines Johnson, prosecuting an increasingly unpopular war and spending money like it was water. All that's missing for the transformation to be complete is for Bush to show us the scar on his stomach, pull his dog up by the ears, and start holding cabinet meetings in the bathroom.

That ought to make fiscal conservatives cringe. Unless, of course, they are the type of fiscal conservative who is so partisan that s/he will just find any rationalization to justify these actions and say it's still better than Democrats would have done.

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