It's often said there isn't a dime's worth of difference between today's two major political parties. But Democrats and Republicans still try to cast themselves as cats and dogs. For example, Republicans label their adversary the party of big government, while Democrats count the GOP as a tool of the military-industrial complex.
Does the rhetoric reflect reality? When considering statistics about civilian employment by the federal government, the answer is clearly no.
During the last 40 years, Democratic administrations added to the federal government's payroll 31,000 civilian defense employees (Defense Department employees who aren't soldiers), and 49,000 nondefense employees –some growth in both categories. But Republican administrations have on balance subtracted 426,000 civilian defense jobs –and added 320,000 nondefense employees. That adds up to bureaucratic bloat more than six times that of the Democrats. The biggest slasher of federal nondefense payrolls was Bill Clinton.
Government Employees Added or (Subtracted)
Kennedy (12,000) 73,000
Johnson 312,000 105,000
Nixon/Ford (333,000) 213,000
Carter (25,000) (14,000)
Reagan 91,000 3,000
George H.W. Bush (184,000) 104,000
Clinton (244,000) (115,000)
Source: Budget for Fiscal Year 2003, Historical Table 17.1, "Total Executive Branch Civilian Employees: 1940-2001"