Government Spending

Bush the Budget-Buster Redux

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Here's a news story via Drudge that confirms the spendthrift ways of the Bush admin that were first noted years ago at reason online:

George W. Bush, despite all his recent bravado about being an apostle of small government and budget-slashing, is the biggest spending president since Lyndon B. Johnson. In fact, he's arguably an even bigger spender than LBJ….

Take almost any yardstick and Bush generally exceeds the spending of his predecessors.

When adjusted for inflation, discretionary spending—or budget items that Congress and the president can control, including defense and domestic programs, but not entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare—shot up at an average annual rate of 5.3 percent during Bush's first six years…

That tops the 4.6 percent annual rate Johnson logged during his 1963-69 presidency. By these standards, Ronald Reagan was a tightwad; discretionary spending grew by only 1.9 percent a year on his watch.

Discretionary spending went up in Bush's first term by 48.5 percent, not adjusted for inflation, more than twice as much as Bill Clinton did (21.6 percent) in two full terms, Slivinski reports.

More here.

Related reason-ania here and here and here.

NEXT: The Gap in Mukasey's Testimony

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  1. Medicare Part D wouldn’t count in all this, would it? That’s entitlement spending, not discretionary, correct?

    That means that entitlement spending went up more on his watch than if he’d just left well enough alone.

  2. I think the comparison to Johnson breaks down in a lot of people’s minds because Johnson’s spending binge wasn’t confined just to Johnson’s term–the price tag on the Great Society is still going up. A discretionary spending binge just isn’t the same as creating whole new entitlements.

    …on the other hand, I think Bush may be the first since Johnson to create a new entitlement the way Johnson did–who can put the final price tag on the new prescription drug benefit?

    There’s some other resistance to the comparison from culture-wad Republicans too, who don’t want President Bush’s war compared to the escalation in Vietnam. I’d say that’s an unfair comparison to Johnson myself. Johnson inherited some portion of that while Bush jumped in with both feet.

    So, anyway, who’s the worst president since Johnson? There’s no question in my mind that Bush has surpassed Nixon and Carter. Who’s the worst President since World War II? I’d say that trophy still belongs to Johnson, with Bush coming in second, but given that Bush should have learned something from Johnson’s mistakes, I can see the other side of that argument.

  3. When adjusted for inflation, discretionary spending … shot up at an average annual rate of 5.3 percent during Bush’s first six years

    Discretionary spending went up in Bush’s first term by 48.5 percent, not adjusted for inflation

    I’m having a hard time reconciling those two statements. I keep hearing how inflation hasn’t been a problem, especially during Bush’s first term. Wasn’t it suppose to be under 3%? But my back of the envelope calculations say it would need to be well over 10% for that to hold. Unless Bush started cutting spending in his second term. I don’t think that’s the case. I’m pretty sure I’d have heard about that.

  4. I’m not going to argue with the man if he finally wants to use the veto pen, but Medicare D was the end of the discussion. Nobody signs that into law and gets to say anything about budgetary discipline.

  5. Does the data underlying this only include the official budget? Because both of Bush’s wars are being conducted off the official budget.

  6. Wars are sort of expensive (we’ll ignore the death, loss of civil liberties, etc. for now). Best not to engage in one if you can help it.

    Since it seems that Bush didn’t get that particular fiscal memo, why would anyone expect him to get any others?

  7. So Congress plays no role in this? Last year all we heard from Reason was how the corrupt Republican Congress was breaking the bank. Now that the Democrats run Congress and shockingly it is business as usual it is “the spendthrift ways of the Bush admin”.

    If it is Reason’s position that the essesive spending is the Bush administration’s fault, fine. Then why wasn’t it the Bush Administration’s fault in 2006? If Congress was part of the problem then, why is it not part of the problem now?

  8. So, anyway, who’s the worst president since Johnson? There’s no question in my mind that Bush has surpassed Nixon and Carter. Who’s the worst President since World War II? I’d say that trophy still belongs to Johnson, with Bush coming in second,

    The succession of presidents in the 1960s — Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon — were so transcendently bad, I don’t think we’ve had anything comparable since. We’re just lucky they didn’t get us all killed.

  9. If Congress was part of the problem then, why is it not part of the problem now?

    Who says it’s not? The issue is GWB now playing the “I’m a frugal President” card, when history shows that’s total BS.

  10. FUCKIN’ TEXANS.

    Great reasoning, buck-o.

    (psst, btw, Bush isn’t from Texas)

  11. At least Johnson had the civil rights act and the voting rights act. Bush has done little, if anything, positive. Short term or long term.

    He couldn’t even get permanent tax cuts.

  12. Oh, Isaac, shoulda warned you. The Urkobold transcends reason.

    But still. Fuckin’ Connecticuttites doesn’t have the same ring.

  13. FUCKIN’ TEXANS AND CONNECTICUTTERS?

    ISAAC, YOU FOOL, THE ONE YOU CALL BUSH WAS RAISED IN TEXAS. THE URKOBOLD KNOWS–HE USED TO PARTY WITH THE MAN. WILD DAYS, LOTS OF LAWS VIOLATED.

  14. Does the urkobold inhale?

  15. wild days, lots of laws violated

    Ah, so things are the same as they ever were

  16. OH MIGHTY URKOBOLD. ALSO MANY A FINE, FAIR MAIDEN AND FAIR-SKINNED LADS WERE VIOLATED!

    WARREN – SHAME. THE URKOBOLD CAN TRANSFORM INTO A GIANT ALVEOLAR POUCH SO THE URKOBOLD IS INAHLED

  17. BUSH USED TO POUR EL PRESIDENTE MARGARITAS ON THE BARE CHESTS OF WOMEN AND WOULD INGEST THE DRINKS BY SNORTING THEM. THIS AMUSED THE URKOBOLD AND HIS POSSE, SO WE USED TO CHANT “EL PRESIDENTE, EL PRESIDENTE!” WHENEVER WE WENT PARTYING WITH GEORGE. IT’S JUST LIKE GEORGE TO MISINTERPRET “EL PRESIDENTE” FOR “RUN FOR PRESIDENT.” SORRY ABOUT THE LAST SEVEN YEARS AND EVERYTHING!

  18. “If it is Reason’s position that the essesive spending is the Bush administration’s fault, fine. Then why wasn’t it the Bush Administration’s fault in 2006?”

    I don’t get it. Why shouldn’t Hit & Run blast the President for spending like a drunken sailor?

  19. “Then why wasn’t it the Bush Administration’s fault in 2006?”

    You didn’t look at all the links Gillespie posted “here and here and here”, did you?

  20. spending like a drunken sailor?

    I’m offended. True stereotypes are the most painful. I demand a formal apology and a bigger piece of the pie!

  21. c’mere sailor for your piece.

  22. Herr Pie | October 24, 2007, 1:37pm | #

    c’mere sailor for your piece.

    That only works from Frau Pie. BTW, She was an animal!

  23. ooh! that was you who taught her that? thanks!

  24. One party controls both Congress and the Presidency, and federal spending escalates? No one could have seen that coming.

  25. prolefeed,

    Count me blindsided by that one. Hoo, boy. I’m confident that an all-Democratic government will be different. More noble, as it were. Like the majestic moose.

  26. JUST WATCH OUT – MY BITE CAN BE PRETTY FIERCE!

  27. John writes, Now that the Democrats run Congress and shockingly it is business as usual Um, no. Since the Democrats took over Congress, they have instituted Pay-Go rules and reformed earmarks so that they are down between 1/4 and 1/3 compared to the GOP Congress.

    Before the 2006 elections, there was quite a bit of debate about whether a Democratic Congress would be more fiscally responsible than Don Young’s party.

    Well, it’s been nine months. They’ve passed major domestic spending bills. And we have plenty of people who JUST KNOW – from their guts, you see – that of course the Democrats have done much worse.

    How about if some enterprising Reason writer were to take a look at the Democrats’ appropriations bills and processes, and shed a little light on this question?

  28. “I’m offended. True stereotypes are the most painful. I demand a formal apology and a bigger piece of the pie!”

    I once spent all my money in a bar with the Australian Navy in town… I’m not trying to milk a stereotype here; I’m reporting the facts. …those guys could really drink!

    Before I apologize, I’d like to mention too that a guy doesn’t have to be in the military to be a “sailor”–my experience has been that people with sailboats, who certainly qualify as “sailors”, tend to drink more than your run of the mill landlubber. …and they certainly have a reputation for spending a lot of money.

    With that said, I hereby formally apologize.

  29. Actually, I remember a lot of talk from libertarians before the last election about how divided government might tighten up the purse strings a bit in Congress, and I haven’t heard anyone yet complain that the strings aren’t tighter now than they were.

    The guy I work with went to a convention a week ago, and no less a Republican luminary than Dick Morris there predicted that when Hillary Clinton was elected, she going to launch a class war like we haven’t seen in decades. I have little doubt but that Hit & Run will lambaste her for it if and when that happens.

    Meanwhile, Hit & Run isn’t required to give equal time. Just because they slam somebody doesn’t mean they have to slam everyone who’s guilty. …and if there were more than three other regular commenters out there confused about whether Hit & Run supports congressional pork–besides you, John… I’d be shocked.

  30. joe,

    As we slouch toward the elections next year, I may ask you to respond to some of the things he brings up. …take this diddy for instance:

    http://www.dickmorris.com/blog/?p=181#more-181

  31. I once spent all my money in a bar with the Australian Navy in town… I’m not trying to milk a stereotype here; I’m reporting the facts. …those guys could really drink!

    When I said true sterotypes, I meant it. Here is the scenario –

    You’ve been at sea for a long time. my personal best/worst was 110 days.
    Unless you’re a bad and stupid poker player all of that pay is in your pocket.
    You’ve been at sea for a long time!
    You’re less tahn 30 years old.
    You’ve been at sea for a long time.
    The U.S. Navy is dry afloat.
    You’ve been at sea A LONG TIME
    Often you are pulling into a “liberty port”. Think Sydney, Hong Kong, Subic Bay, Pattaya Beach, Wellington NZ, ETC.
    You’ve been at sea for A LONG FUCKIN’ TIME.
    For reasons that escape me, women like sailors with money. (OK I’m dense.)
    YOU’VE BEEN AT SEA FOR A VERY LONG, FUCKIN’ CELIBATE, SOBER TIME!!!

    That, folks, is where the scurrilous line “spending money like a drunken sailor” comes from.

    I always went to the museums myself, but I have heard stories.

    J sub D, FCCM, USN (Ret)

  32. The Reason playbook on this seems to be as follows:

    Republican Congress, Republican President with congressional elections approaching; talk about the free spending Republican Congress.

    Republican President, Democratic Congress with Presidential election approaching; blame all of the spending on the Republican President.

    Democratic President, Democratic Congress, talk about the big spending Republican governors.

    Reasons is a bigger shill for the Democratic Party than Joe is. The only difference between the two is that Reason is a lot less honest about who they are and smarter about how they do the shilling. But it is shilling nonethe less. Do posts like these come directly out of the DNC?

  33. If it really is a nonpartisan site, then they shouldn’t give equal time, John. Giving equal time to Republicans is a Republican concern, and if they really are nonpartisan, then they shouldn’t care about that.

    The only people I’ve ever seen who care about equal time are partisans. Going after the party you’re against more than they want to would not make them nonpartisan–it would make them partisan… Is any of this getting through?

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