No Nuss No Fuss

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Me and some bloggers talked budgets with OMB Director Jim Nussle this morning and Phil Klein typed up a report over at the American Spectator.

Asked about spending growth during the Bush years, he said that Bush had a much smaller degree of control over discretionary spending than his predecessors because of the rise of mandatory spending, and after the Clinton years we faced a "security deficit." So, the increase in defense and homeland security spending is what lead to the rise.

That was my question: I asked Nussle about the unanimous ire coming from the 2008 GOP field about spending increases during the Bush years. He's pretty new in the job, so has he learned something they don't know? Are they naive? And that was, largely his answer.

"Most people will answer that Bush and the Republican Congress, top line, did a good job controlling spending, compared even to Ronald Reagan." Hm, debatable. "You have to take into account the Department of Homeland Security, which was created in a bipartisan effort and then had to be funded. Before 2001 we weren't concerned enough about security." Also: "We can debate the war, but once that decision is made you have to fund it."

Yes, we can debate it, but Nussle's basically right. The Republicans who whine the most about government spending—McCain, Romney—are talking largely about pork that doesn't make a big dent in the overall picture. They're talking haltingly about entitlement reforms; they're not talking at all about cutting military spending or defense spending.

NEXT: Skittles of Death

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  1. “is what lead to the rise”

    LED, dammit, LED!

  2. Grammar Nazi Spelling Nazi

  3. Questioning military spending? What’s the matter, Weigal? Don’t you realize nothing’s too good for our boys?! What are you? Some kind of dove-diddling peacenik?

    /sarc

  4. Me and some bloggers . .
    Some bloggers and I . .

  5. They’re talking haltingly about entitlement reforms; they’re not talking at all about cutting military spending or defense spending.

    No they’re not–and they won’t while they still have any way to avoid it.

    In related news, the loonie is at US$1.0294.

    It has occurred to me lately that the collapse of Bretton Woods and the end of the Vietnam War occurred about the same time. (Foreign nations got sick of importing US inflation.) Coincidence? Or might the current fall of the US dollar have at least one silver lining–a quicker end to an Iraq war getting less affordable every day now?

    I can hope.

  6. From now on, I think we should refer to Bush as “Hillary Clinton in a suit and tie” (in the tradition of the Chavez-in-a-pants-suit meme).

  7. “You have to take into account the Department of Homeland Security, which was created in a bipartisan effort and then had to be funded. Before 2001 we weren’t concerned enough about security.”

    Does the actual cost of the war compute in this as well, or is that debt somewhere else? Did our President not tell us to go shopping? Have you complied with this direct order? Has every good American not gone shopping? Hell, America, we can not even go shopping when called upon. Maybe Brokaw had something with his ‘Greatest Generation’ book. You can bet your bottom dollar that that generation would have gone shopping if told.

  8. Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit

  9. nussle used to be my congressman in iowa’s first district. I met him a few times. he is kinda a douche who really, really wants to be president (but he lost the most recent election for governor in iowa.)

    anyway, my point is i don’t like jim nussle.

  10. Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage. Nah, that’s not going to cost much, now or in the future. Definately fiscally responsible. NCLB, almost free. Fiscally responsible.

    “We can debate the war, but once that decision is made you have to fund it.” Fiscally responsibility rules! I know he can’t come out and tell the truth. I’m just wondering why any self respecting person would try to defend ’00-’06 spending. And still blaming Clinton? Jeezus fuck, that has gotten really old.

    (I couldn’t immediateky find a NCLB cost link. Too lazy to do a real search. Sorry.)

  11. From now on, I think we should refer to Bush as “Hillary Clinton in a suit and tie”

    Seconded. Also, what Fluffy said.

  12. Between the war and the Medicare expansion, it looks like Bush declared a fatwa against fiscal sanity.

  13. Me and some bloggers . .
    Some bloggers and I . .

    Artistic license.
    Sheesh, give the ink-stained wretch a break!*

    *OK, “keyboard-fatigued wretch”, in keeping with the situation.

  14. I would point out that Ronald Reagan, far from “controlling spending,” massively increased it–all for defense, of course. We still have to pay that money back, you know. Bush’s prescription drug plan added several trillion dollars to future government obligations. For defense, we now have two defense budgets: a Cold War defense budget, that spends hundreds of billions to protect us from attack by the Soviet Union, which no longer exists, plus a War on Terror defense budget, which has spent $500 billion in Iraq to get us to square zero.

    Nussle’s basically right? No, he’s very, very wrong. Sloppy work, Dave.

  15. Can people start putting the words “entitlement” and “discretionary” spending in scare quotes as they concede far too much morally.

  16. nussle used to be my congressman in iowa’s first district. I met him a few times. he is kinda a douche who really, really wants to be president (but he lost the most recent election for governor in iowa.)

    Totally agree; I have vivid district convention memories of him coming and talking down to all us highschool brats. He compared politics to ordering a pizza, which annoyed me, but later I got to watch people yelling about gays in the military, so it was all good.

  17. If our current situation is anything like the Euro Rhineland 1936 problem (YMMV), then a failure to invest in military action could lead to huge costs down the road.

    Of course the only way to find out is to bring the boys home RIGHT NOW.

    Given the way Congress has been voting on the subject, I’d say Americans are not ready to take that risk.

  18. M.Simon,

    The situation in Vietnam in 1957 had some things in common with the Rhineland in 1936, and investing in military action turned out to be a really, really bad choice there. It’s unfortunate that pro-war types insist that every war is WW2, and anti-war types insist that every war is Vietnam, since this war isn’t either one. We have to evaluate the merits of staying and the merits of leaving based on the current situation, not some vaguely similar situation from the past that backs up our pre-existing beliefs.

  19. The folks talking about entitlements are on the right track with this one.

    The war in Iraq has cost about $100 billion USD per year. Of course this is taken out of a nearly $12 trillion USD economy. For those complaining about the price of the war keep in mind the cost of this conflict as a percentage of the nation’s earning power is about .83%. Frankly, it is irrelevant from an economic standpoint. Also it is only a short to mid term liability. Sooner or later the conflict will wind down.

    Total defense spending is about 4% of GDP. Keeping this number constant is fairly easy as it is both “discretionary” and is not driven by demographic/ageing/other uncontrollable factors within US society.

    The same cannot be said of the medicare/medicade/social security debacle. Social security accounts for about 4.2% and meidcare currently comes in at 3.1%. Social security is expected in some quarters to rise to 6.3% and medicare to 11% over the next 20 to 30 years. Of course all of this assumes the status quo remains in place during that time period.

    Someone needs to deal with entitlements sooner rather than later. Whining about military spending and “pork barrel spending” is just a dodge on the issue.

    Of course the good news is that the US problem with entitlements is nothing compared to the coming shit storm in Europe over the same issue.

  20. Wow, this may be the closest an HnR bloggist has come to actually coming out and saying:

    “cut defense spending.”

    Go Weigs!

  21. I’m all the way on board with cutting defense spending. Start by closing all overseas bases (All our base belong to them?).

    But even if you take defense off the table. The Bush years have plenty to answer for. Decades of the good fight to limit agricultural spending, right down the shitter. Pork bonanza transportation spending. And of course brand new entitlement spending. The list goes on. Bush rightly deserves the lions share of the blame, but he had lots of help form both sides of the aisle.

  22. Without Department of Homeland Security, how can we stop suspected perps from not taking off shoes before boarding an airplane?

  23. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/13/AR2007101301071.html

    This link has absolutely nothing to do, at all, with this story, but I am posting it anyway. Why? Because for weeks, this website posted the same old tired bullshit about how people that claimed Iraq was improving were liars peddling vile propaganda. However, given the nature of this site, I expect to see no blog entries at all making corrections. Therefore I will be posting this link in every blog entries comments section. Time to eat crow, assholes.

  24. I would rather spend on defense than welfare. With defense, you get a lot of spin-off benefits, one being the internet where we are discussing this.

  25. Let me take this opportunity say that I agree with Bob.

  26. For defense, we now have two defense budgets: a Cold War defense budget, that spends hundreds of billions to protect us from attack by the Soviet Union, which no longer exists, plus a War on Terror defense budget, which has spent $500 billion in Iraq to get us to square zero.

    Alan, have you seen the recent photos of the Russian Bear bombers on patrol far outside Russian borders? Are you aware that China is ramping into a cold-war style military build up?

    Alan… Alan… it’s medication time.

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