George Bush, the Fiscal Conservative?

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In
last week’s
presidential debate
, George Bush said:

Non-homeland,
non-defense discretionary spending was raising at 15 percent
a year when I got into office. And today it’s less than 1 percent,
because we’re working together to try to bring this deficit
under control.

We
can ignore his poor grammar, but we should note that once again
he’s playing fast and loose with the truth. Spending – defense
or non-defense, discretionary or mandatory, unneeded or unneeded
– is rising at an extraordinary clip.

Mr.
Bush also went to great lengths to make fun of John Kerry, saying:
"And here he says he’s going to be a fiscal conservative, all
of a sudden. It’s just not credible. You cannot believe it."

Well,
John Kerry says many things that we shouldn’t believe. But George
Bush also says a great deal that we shouldn’t believe.

Talk
about Big Spenders

George
Bush is a first-class spender. And he doesn’t have a Democratic
Congress to blame for it. In fact, he doesn’t have anyone but himself
to blame for it – since he hasn’t vetoed a single bill.

I
believe that modern Presidents spend far, far too much on the military
– since it goes for national offense, rather than national defense.
This leaves America undefended at home while U.S. troops run around
the world enforcing the reckless wishes of American Presidents.

But
I realize I’ll get arguments from people if I include military spending
in any comparisons of American Presidents.

So
let’s look at the yearly non-military spending by Presidents
since Franklin Roosevelt.

Yearly
Growth in Non-Military Spending


President

Actual

Inflation-Adjusted

Franklin
Roosevelt

+
9.6%

+
6.7%

Harry
Truman

+
8.8%

+
3.5%

Dwight
Eisenhower

+
9.1%

+
7.6%

John
Kennedy

+
9.6%

+
8.3%

Lyndon
Johnson

+
9.9%

+
6.7%

Richard
Nixon

+15.8%

+
8.6%

Gerald
Ford

+12.7%

+
6.2%

Jimmy
Carter

+13.7%

+
2.7%

Ronald
Reagan

+
6.2%

+
2.1%

George
H.W. Bush

+
7.4%

+
3.5%

Bill
Clinton

+
4.2%

+
1.6%

George
W. Bush

+
6.2%

+
3.8%

On an inflation-adjusted
basis, the biggest spenders were:

Richard
Nixon
+
8.6%

John
Kennedy
+
8.3%

Dwight
Eisenhower
+
7.6%

Franklin
Roosevelt
+
6.7%

Gerald
Ford
+
6.2%

The smallest
spenders were:

Bill
Clinton
+
1.6%

Ronald
Reagan
+
2.1%

Jimmy
Carter
+
2.7%

George
H.W. Bush
+
3.5%

Harry
Truman
+
3.5%

It’s interesting
that George W. Bush is increasing non-military spending at over
twice the speed of Bill Clinton – that great bte noire
of all good conservatives.

It’s
also interesting that three of the top five spenders were Republicans,
and three of the lowest five spenders were Democrats.

Unfiscal
Nonconservatism

By
accusing John Kerry of posing falsely as a fiscal conservative,
Bush implied that Bush himself is a fiscal conservative. Is he?

Total
federal government spending in the first three years of the Bush
administration has risen by 24.4% – the equivalent of 7.6%
per year.

Bush
blames this runaway spending on 9/11 and the need for greater homeland
"security." But he isn’t handling this situation in a
fiscally conservative manner.

If
you suddenly have extraordinary expenses to bear, what do you do?
You either withdraw some money from savings or you find a way to
reduce other spending in order to accommodate the new expenditures.

The
federal government has no savings (unless you count the grossly
underfunded Social
Security trust fund
). Thus the only fiscally conservative possibility
is to reduce other spending.

Bush
brags that he’s reduced the rate of growth in "discretionary"
spending (items that aren’t locked into the budget) to 1% per year.
But why isn’t he reducing discretionary spending by 5%, 10%,
or more each year – in order to accommodate the new so-called
anti-terrorism expenditures?

The
reason is that he doesn’t have to. It isn’t his money
that’s at stake. All he has to do is extract more resources from
the taxpayers.

The
idea that Bush’s "tax cuts" have lightened the cost of
government on Americans is nothing more than a con man’s sleight-of-hand.
The federal government is spending well over $2 trillion per year.
Where is the $2 trillion coming from? The Russians? Martians?

Of
course not. It isn’t even coming from our children and grandchildren.
It’s coming from us.

When
the government spends $2 trillion, it extracts $2 trillion worth
of resources from society – resources that otherwise would
have been available to us. We pay more for what we need and we go
without more, because of the government’s avarice.

Tax
cut my foot.

Voting

So
anyone who thinks we have to elect a Republican in order to keep
those big-spending Democrats out of the White House just hasn’t
been paying attention.

There
really isn’t any difference between the two major presidential candidates.
If you choose to vote for one over the other, you are endorsing
big government – and you shouldn’t be surprised when that’s exactly
what you get.

As
always, for me the two choices are not vote Republican or
vote Democrat. The choices are vote Libertarian or don’t vote at
all.

[The
spending growth rates were calculated from data published by the
U.S. government in Historical
Statistics of the United States from Colonial Times to 1970
,
table Y467, page 1115; in the Statistical
Abstract of the United States, 1997
, and in various issues
of Economic
Indicators
. The calculation for each President begins with
the fiscal year starting during his first year in office and ending
with the fiscal year that ends shortly after leaving office. Spending
for George W. Bush is the yearly rate for three years only, through
the fiscal year 2004, since we don't know what the inflation rate
will be for 2005.]

October
14, 2004

Harry Browne [send
him mail
], the author of Why
Government Doesn’t Work

and many other books, was the Libertarian presidential candidate
in 1996 and 2000. See his website.

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