Data: Big-Spender Bush
George W. Bush is a fiscal conservative, right? Maybe not. Federal discretionary spending, which grew at an annual average of 2.4 percent during the 1990s, was up 12.5 percent in fiscal year 2003. Since 2001, total federal spending has grown by 16 percent.
Administration apologists suggest this is only to be expected in light of the war on terror. Yet researchers at the conservative Heritage Foundation calculate that less than half of the new spending is related to defense, homeland security, or other costs associated with the 9/11 attacks. Total federal spending is now at the highest real per-household rate since World War II, when (as during the Korean War, though not Vietnam) nonwar spending shrank to compensate for higher military expenditures.
Much of the growth was in "nondiscretionary" entitlement spending on programs such as Social Security and Medicare—spending that, despite the label, lawmakers do ultimately have discretion to change. High-growth categories included education spending (up 65 percent) and unemployment benefit payments (up 85 percent). Heritage also counted $80 billion in corporate welfare and $20 billion in pork barrel projects. But hey, what's a few billion here and there?
Data not available: Spending Increase Since 9/11 (pie chart)