Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush Criticizes George W. Bush for Spending Too Much—But as Florida's Governor He Also Increased Spending

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Gage Skidmore

After spending a week awkwardly defending his brother's legacy of failure in the most recent Iraq war by saying things like, "News flash to the world, if they're trying to find places where there's big space between me and my brother, this might not be one of those," Jeb Bush, when questioned, tentatively broached an issue yesterday on which he might actually have a kinda-sorta disagreement with his brother: government spending. So he claims anyway. The New York Times reports:

"I think that, in Washington during my brother's time, Republicans spent too much money," Mr. Bush said Thursday when asked to describe where there was a "big space" between himself and his brother George W. Bush. "I think he could have used the veto power. He didn't have line-item veto power, but he could have brought budget discipline to Washington, D.C."

… He did qualify that his criticism of the government spending during his brother's tenure as president "seems kind of quaint right now given the fact that after he left, the budget and deficits and spending went up astronomically." 

For a remark that is supposedly about describing Jeb's disagreements with his brother's presidency, there's an awful lot of hedging here.

Notice, for example, the way that Jeb Bush attempts to limit his brother's responsibility for the rise in spending under his watch by first saying broadly that "Republicans" were the ones spending too much money, and then noting that Bush II didn't have the power to go through budgets line-by-line. And then check out the move-on-nothing-to-see-here wrap-up line, which comes across as a half-hearted attempt to insist that, sure, whatever responsibility his brother may have had for ramping up government spending and public debt, it's not really worth worrying about now because President Obama has been ever so much worse. As they say: to be sure!

Actually, let's spend a little bit of time dwelling on the federal government's spending under President George W. Bush, and how it compares to other presidents. Go back to the end of 2009, when data for Bush's last year as president was released, and it's immediately clear that the Bush administration set records for both spending levels and spending increases. Under Bush, total federal spending increased from $1.8 trillion to a little more than $3.5 trillion. That means he presided over the most significant increase in federal spending since Lyndon B. Johnson was president in the 1960s.

The record of increase is important, because it paved the way for the big spending of the Obama years. Yes, President Obama has spent more than President Bush every year—and it's been too much on every occasion. But federal spending under Obama has increased at a far slower rate than under President Bush. Obama took Bush's baseline and built on it, but George W. Bush's spending increases were a big part of what made Obama's spending possible. So while Jeb Bush is right that deficits went up astronomically under Obama (they've also come back down quite a bit, at least temporarily), he's not on strong ground when he says that "spending went up astronomically" under the current president, at least in terms of the amount of increase. Spending went up astronomically under George W. Bush, and then stayed high, too high, under President Obama. 

It's nice, of course, to see that Jeb Bush has chosen to single out runaway spending and bad budgeting as a problem for Republicans in Washington, D.C. during the last time they controlled the White House, but it shouldn't be dismissed in favor of an exclusive focus on Obama-era fiscal foul-ups.

Meanwhile, Jeb Bush's theoretical commitment to spending restraint should probably be questioned a little given his own budgetary record during the Bush years: Between 1999 and 2007, when Jeb Bush was governor of Florida, general fund spending in the Sunshine State rose 57 percent, from $18 billion to $28.2 billion, and total spending grew 45 percent, according to data from the National Association of State Budget Officers, as the Cato Institute's Chris Edwards noted last year. The libertarian think tank gave him a C grade for his final year in office, noting his propensity for both cutting taxes and letting spending grow.

So, Jeb Bush's record is one of tax cuts paired with spending increases. That sounds rather familiar, doesn't it?

Jeb may now disagree with George W. Bush's freewheeling spending during the bulk of the 00s, but as the duly elected Republican executive of one of the nation's biggest states, Jeb Bush wasn't exactly a spendthrift himself. Practically speaking, it's hard to see a very "big space" between how Jeb Bush and his brother handled government spending during those years. 

(My colleagues and I will have much more on the spending records for Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and a slew of other presidential wannabes in the very next issue of reason. You should subscribe right now!)

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  1. What kind of crazy person runs for president after his brother left the office with such a low popularity rating? The Bush name is tarnished; unless Jeb thinks he could pull in enough Hispanic voters and keep the base at the same time.

    1. I think Jeb is running because he is expected to run, not because he wants to win.

      1. How lame is that? You couldn’t pay me to run, much less guilt trip me into it.

        1. It’s the only theory that makes sense, because if Alienating the base and talking at them with the same “you’re the ones who need to change” attitude as Barry and Hillary is his A Game, I dread his off days.

          1. His head is filled with bullshit from all the Karl Rove consultant types.

        2. You’d do it for Randolph Scott, wouldn’t you?

          1. *removes hat and looks skyward*

            Randolph Scott!

          2. *removes 10 gallon hat*
            RANDOLPH SCOTT!

            Alright.

          3. Whatever happened to Randolph Scott?

            1. Since he was a Republican in Hollywood, no one knows.

        3. No one from Florida will ever be president.

          1. You know what fist, soon as I’m old enough, I’m running for president and if I win I will burn the other 56 states to the ground, then who will be crazy?!?
            *manical laugh followed by long coughing fit*

      2. I think Jeb is running because he is expected to run

        This. Running for president is pretty much the Bush family business at this point. Some families hand down a farm or a small “mom and pop” business from generation to generation, the Bush’s run for president, and unfortunately win most of the time.

    1. Body cams please.

    2. She said she can’t understand why the officer shot her sons based on a suspicion that they may have been the ones who tried to steal the beer.

      Well, according to the article, they were shot for assaulting the cop when he tried to arrest them, not for trying to steal beer.

      1. Also, the store clerks gave a very detailed description of the two upto and including height, weight, clothes, tattoos, etc (almost like they were known at the store…) and the attack on the officer happened less than fifteen minutes later. Probably at one of their regular hangouts becuase the cop doesn’t sound too motivated. “I hit one and din’t give chase when they ran into the woods” projects a ‘bare minum effort’ attitude, so the only way he found them in 15 minutes is if these two were well known.

        1. But they were such good boys, they would never do anything bad!

          1. Inevitably if they both end up dying this will become cause celebre for #BlackLivesMatter despite there being so many worse examples of cops beating on black people who actually weren’t breaking the law.

            1. Because progies feel that blacks are entitled to steal, loot, rape and kill with impunity. Because of Kochtopus or someother bullshit.

    3. The officer reported that he was being assaulted with a skateboard before the shooting in Olympia…

      The police chief said that Donald wasn’t injured but that an officer “has the right to defend himself” if a suspect wields an object that could be used as a deadly weapon.

      A skateboard deserves deadly force?

      1. Yeah, he was being assaulted with a skateboard, but somehow is injury-free? How does that happen? The article doesn’t say. What exactly is meant by ‘assault’ here? Menacing? Threatening? Swinging? The article doesn’t say. Just the usual shitty reporting.

      2. You ever been hit with one of those wheel-side first?

        1. But more seriously, probably not enough to warrent the cop’s behaviour either.

      3. Somebody’s never seen Kids.

        1. I’ve never seen kids. Is it worth a watch?

      4. I could easily beat someone to death with a skateboard. And if I was carrying and I thought I was a bout to be incapacitated by someone hitting me with a skateboard, I would bust a cap in their ass too.

        Assuming that is what happened. The article is shit. So who knows?

    4. They are black, and Donald is white

      Well, if you say so.

    5. Olympia Mayor Stephen H. Buxbaum called for calm in the community.

      “It deeply saddens me that we have two young people in the hospital as a result of an altercation with an officer of the law,” he said. “Let’s come together to support their needs, the officer’s needs, the needs of the families and our community’s needs. Let’s not be reactive.”

      The officers need? … A new magazine of rounds to replace the ones he fired? A few paid days off?

    6. Well hopefully they both don’t die, that alone would help defuse any situations from arising.

    7. “We’ll see what comes of this one.”

      We need a great deal of additional information, Warty. All of the articles I read or scanned regarding this case are approximately as helpful/unhelpful as the one for which you provided a link.

      However, I think your weather prediction may be accurate.

  2. Where’s the shit stopper when you most expect him?

    1. Sorry, I should have been more explicit and baity:

      Yes, President Obama has spent more than President Bush every year?and it’s been too much on every occasion. But federal spending under Obama has increased at a far slower rate than under President Bush.

      BOOOOSHHHHHHH!!!!!!

    2. It’s too early, he usually doesn’t emerge until the Lynx

      1. He needs to get the talking points before he can post.

        1. You had to summon him in all his derpy glory, didn’t ya?!

          1. Fuuuuuck! I should really know better.

      2. Ah, he’s showed up, at 8:49! Yay! The Batshitcrazy signal worked!

  3. “Jeb Bush wasn’t exactly a spendthrift himself.”

    Um, I think you mean “Jeb Bush wasn’t exactly a [tightwad, pinchpenny, Scrooge] himself.”

    1. You misspelled your first name again.

    2. Spendthrift. Noun: a person who spends possessions or money extravagantly or wastefully; prodigal.

      1. It is an interesting word to get wrong. It means exactly what it says.

    3. Yes, I know the meaning of “spendthrift” isn’t quite like one would think it should be based on the root words, but Mr. Suderman or his editor would do well to learn the meaning of the word before using it.

      Spendthrift: “a person who spends money in an extravagant, irresponsible way.” A prodigal, a wastrel.

  4. These Bush vs. Obama vs. Johnson vs. Reagan “got cha” spending stats are getting tedious. Suderman’s been around long enough to know that no politician running for president ever gets specific about his spending and tax plans because nearly all voters want less taxes on themselves and more spending on themselves. I’m still waiting to see one candidate (with the possible exception of the Libertarian one) ever present their prospective budget to the voters.
    They just refuse to be specific and, once in office, the federal debt expands because Congress and the President and the majority of voters wish it to expand.

  5. BOOOOOOSHH!

    NO FAIR!

    HE MAKES US GOP LOOK BAD!

    1. I was playing World of Warcraft last night, and some punk college kid was pontificating ablut socialism being wonderful. I got tired of his shit and told him that the Kochtopus was gonna get him. It really is their boogeyman.

  6. ” federal spending under Obama has increased at a far slower rate than under President Bush.”

    ObamaCare just kicked in in 2014, and the penalties for non-compliance are still small. Give it time. ObamaCare has expanded the welfare state every bit as much as Bush’s idiotic Medicare Part D. Before it’s over, the US welfare state will adopt single payer if it doesn’t collapse first.

    1. It would be interesting to see how much of Obama’s “restraint” is due to Congress’s simply failing to pass a budget and having to run on continuing resolutions for much of that time.

  7. Having a Bush and a Clinton running in this race, even if they don’t stand a chance of winning, is so depressing to me I feel despondent.

    We have allowed a ruling class worse than the one we toppled 200 years ago to grow like a cancer. It is past time for the pitchforks.

  8. Republican politicians increase spending because Republican voters want them to.

  9. No way in fuck I would vote for a Bush. Never have, never will.

    That said, this criticism is weak considering that 6 of the 8 years Jeb was FL governor, he was in the top 10 of governors rated by Cato (4 of those 8 he was in the top 5). His last 2 years were mediocre, but not at the same level as GWB’s god-awful record on spending.

    On the issue of spending and tax cuts, Jeb has a decent record. On other things? Not so much.

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  13. Let’s see. George H Bush ruined Reagan’s third term. George W Bush allowed the economy to go into the worst recession since the Great Depression AND he got us into a war under false pretenses. Now Jeb, who takes 4 days to answer a no-brainer of a question, wants to pick up where his brother left off.

    I have never voted democrat in my 63 years of life but you can bet I’ll vote for Hillary before I pull the handle for another Bush.

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