Bush the Budget-Buster Redux

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USA Today tells the world what Hit & Run readers knew last fall: that George W. Bush is a budget-busting behemoth who has cranked up discretionary spending in a way that would make LBJ blush. Indeed, in his first five budgets Bush (and the GOP Congress) increased total discretionary spending 7.16 percent per year compared to LBJ's 5 percent per year.

Go here for an explanation of "discretionary" versus "mandatory" spending, etc. Briefly, discretionary spending includes like most defense spending, farm subsidies, and education while mandatory spending includes entitlements such as Medicare and student loans. Discretionary spending is subject to annual review and cuts or increases. Mandatory spending requires more legislative action to change. Both account for about 50 percent of the federal budget, though significant expenditures, including Social Security, are "off budget" and don't show up in such tallies.

From USA Today's reckoning:

The federal government is currently spending 20.8 cents of every $1 the economy generates, up from 18.5 cents in 2001, White House budget documents show. That's the most rapid growth during one administration since Franklin Roosevelt.

More here. There are some reasons to discount the measure of spending as a percentage of GDP (overall economic growth can mask spending increases; recessions tend to shrink economies and boost spending on welfare programs; etc), but significant increases are significant increases.

In a related story, USA Today charts how presidents since LBJ (the first one to fall whose terms fall under the budget analysis still in use today, thus allowing direct comparisons with predecessors) have done in terms of overall federal spending. Try to match the presidents and their overall, inflation-adjusted increases: LBJ, Nixon-Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush. The average annual increases: 2 percent (twice), 3 percent (twice), 4 percent, 5 percent, 6 percent.

The answers online here.

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  1. As the President gets closer to the end of his term, the pressure to break his campaign pledge to never veto a spending bill should increase tremendously. I think history shows that the temptation to stay relevant is disproportionately related to the perception of the President as a lame duck on Capitol Hill.

    …What do you mean the President didn’t promise to never veto a spending bill?

  2. At least we know the money has been put to good use.

  3. This is probably the first time USA Today has been outraged by excessive federal spending.

    Or maybe they actually believed Republicans are the Party of Smaller Government, and now feel betrayed.

  4. When the next President takes office (Republican or Democrat) and will have to cut spending and raise taxes in order to pay for today’s excesses, people will bitch and moan … and it won’t make any difference. At least at that point said President will be able to point to the average American’s crumbling finances, credit card debt, collapsing home prices, skyrocketing medical costs, and inability to save for retirement and say, “Well, the Federal government is going through the same thing. American’s government didn’t prepare for its future, either.”

  5. Spending as a percentage of GNP peeked during the Clinton Administration at 20.7% in 1995. During the Bush administration it has been as follows:

    2001 – 18.5%
    2002 – 19.4%
    2003 – 19.9%
    2004 – 19.8%
    2005 – 20.3% (Estimate)

    By historic standards spending has not been particularly high. In addition, Bush fought two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq while Clinton benifited from the post cold war defense drawdown. Yes, if you are so stupid as to read just the raw numbers spending is out of control. If you went to school beyond the 8th grade you realize that the government spends more money because there is a larger economy and therefore it has more money. Hell, in terms of raw numbers the government spends over two trillion dollars a year and they only spen 90 billion a year at the height of World War II. My God, Bush is worse than I thought. Further, last I heard the United States operated under something called the separation of powers. The President is not a dictator. Last time I checked the Constitution, the Congress has the power to tax and spend not the President. You know that whole part about “all revenue bills must originate in the house” and “no money shall be drawn from the federal treasury except by authorization of Congress” or something like that. Yet, all the spending is completely due to Bush, Congress has nothing to say about it whatsoever.

    Are the writers at Reason just this braindead or are they just liers?

  6. John, how many bills has the President vetoed?

    He’s on track to be the first two term President since Jefferson to go without a single veto.

    Seems to me that he could do something to keep spending under control. Especially with the House in the hands of his own party.

  7. John,
    Did you miss this part:

    There are some reasons to discount the measure of spending as a percentage of GDP (overall economic growth can mask spending increases; recessions tend to shrink economies and boost spending on welfare programs; etc), but significant increases are significant increases.

    Bush’s spending increases have been in non-defense discretionary spending.

    Look at this chart by household.

    And this one shows that Clinton had more spending on defense in his first term than Bush had in his first term. In fact it shows that Clinton’s large federal spending was due to high interest payments due to debt and high defense spending as a percent of GDP and Bush’s is laregly due to low interest payments (due to the draw down of the defecit) and non-defense spending.

    Next time, take your own advice and look into your facts a little deeper instead of just looking at the raw numbers..

  8. “Yes, if you are so stupid as to read just the raw numbers spending is out of control.”

    Well, call me stupid then. You know I look at two figures, revenue and spending. The more spending outpaces revenue, the more your spending is out of control. All other figures such as percentage of GDP (and I’m assuming that you meant GDP and not GNP as you used in your post) and such are nothing but financial camouflage used by politicians and others to justify continued and expanded peddling of their wares.

    “Hell, in terms of raw numbers the government spends over two trillion dollars a year and they only spen 90 billion a year at the height of World War II.”

    So what is your point? I don’t see anybody comparing spending between 1944 and 2005 in nominal values.

  9. The more spending outpaces revenue, the more your spending is out of control. All other figures such as percentage of GDP (and I’m assuming that you meant GDP and not GNP as you used in your post) and such are nothing but financial camouflage used by politicians and others to justify continued and expanded peddling of their wares.

    So, I guess if we just raised taxes to cover it all, everything would be okay? The one good thing Bush and Congress have done is cut the hell out of taxes. Taxes are down to under 17% of GNP. We could run a surplus if we wanted to go back 21% of GNP as taxes the way it was in the late 1990s. I would rather have the lower taxes.

  10. “So, I guess if we just raised taxes to cover it all, everything would be okay?”

    I never said that now did I? I merely said the more spending outpaces revenue, the more it is out of control.

    “The one good thing Bush and Congress have done is cut the hell out of taxes.”

    In general, as long as they are coupled with matching cuts in spending I agree. Deficit spending in time of economic downturns I agree with, but I think we would all agree we passed that point several years ago.

    “Taxes are down to under 17% of GNP. We could run a surplus if we wanted to go back 21% of GNP as taxes the way it was in the late 1990s.”

    I think it is poignant that in your thinking, you merely talked about the revenue side and nothing at all about the spending. How about cut the spending? And again, I think you are talking about GDP not GNP.

  11. Taxes are down to under 17% of GNP. We could run a surplus if we wanted to go back 21% of GNP as taxes the way it was in the late 1990s. I would rather have the lower taxes.

    Uh, yeah, because you don’t have to pay the bill, shitface. Meanwhile, people with a chance of actually breeding might not want their future generations stuck with it.

    Yet, all the spending is completely due to Bush, Congress has nothing to say about it whatsoever.

    If the party composition of the Congress has managed to escape you for the last four years, along with the distinct lack of spending vetos, you are even more woefully stupid than anybody here could possibly have imagined. How big would Bush’s cock have to be before you would refuse to deepthroat it?

  12. I just dropped in to check on the Hit and Run comments, so I will hit and run. Isn’t it obivious to you regulars by now that John is a complete and total idiot?

  13. DIA:

    yes

  14. I am bothered by the terminology commonly used- “discretionary” and “mandatory” spending. Makes it sound like Congress can throw up its hands and say “hey, don’t get mad at us, there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s mandatory.” But all mandatory spending did, at some point, pass congressional discretion, and it can always be changed back, with enough will power.

  15. Spending as a percentage of GNP peeked during the Clinton Administration at 20.7% in 1995. During the Bush administration it has been as follows:

    Clinton would have been worse!

    …I’ve never voted Democrat in my life, and I’m not about to–but I can’t wait for the Republicans to no longer have both the White House and Congress.

  16. Taiko,

    “The more spending outpaces revenue, the more your spending is out of control.”

    True enough, but the degree to which “spending outpaces revenue” is better measured through % of GDP or % of total budget than in absolute dollar figures.

    Seriously, a $200 billion deficit sounds pretty damn good right now, and would be much less than a $186 billion deficit in the late 80s/early 90s.

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