• 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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