Small Government Republicans Prove Big Spenders in Office

Will the last libertarian who thinks the Democratic Party at least stands for peace and the defense of civil liberties please buy a beer for the last libertarian who thinks the Republican Party at least stands for smaller government?

President Bush has presided over the largest overall increase in inflation-adjusted federal spending since Lyndon B. Johnson. Even after excluding spending on defense and homeland security, Bush is still the biggest-spending president in 30 years. His budget doesn’t cut enough spending to change his place in history, either.

Total government spending grew by 33 percent during Bush’s first term. The federal budget as a share of the economy grew from 18.5 percent of GDP on Clinton’s last day in office to 20.3 percent by the end of Bush’s first term.

The Republican Congress has enthusiastically assisted the budget bloat. Inflation-adjusted spending on the combined budgets of the 101 largest programs they vowed to eliminate in has grown by 27 percent.

The GOP was once effective at controlling nondefense spending. The final nondefense budgets under Clinton were a combined $57 billion smaller than what he proposed . Under Bush, Congress passed budgets that spent a total of $91 billion more than the president requested for domestic programs. Bush signed every one of those bills during his first term. Even if Congress passes Bush’s new budget exactly as proposed, not a single cabinet-level agency will be smaller than when Bush assumed office.

Republicans could reform the budget rules that stack the deck in favor of more spending. Unfortunately, senior House Republicans are fighting the changes. The GOP establishment in Washington today has become a defender of big government.

That’s the “Executive Summary” of a new report from the Cato Institute: The Grand Old Spending Party: How Republicans Became Big Spenders.

If you want to hear the ka-ching of Congress opening the money tray, swing by Washington Watch, where they tally up the numbers and tell you how much each bill is going to cost you. For instance, the average household is going to cough up $719.16 for H.R. 1268 The Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, .

It’s fun to watch conservatives practice the curious ideological yoga of trying to excuse or ignore this trough-snorkeling. Case in point: the feds reported a better-than-expected predicted income this quarter due to a larger-than-expected flood of last-minute income tax payments. The Washington Post announced:

Wall Street analysts reduced their deficit forecasts this week, from around $400 billion to around $370 billion. In nominal dollar terms, that would still be the third-highest deficit on record.… ¶ …Since President Bush entered office, the total federal debt — including debt to the public and debt owed the Social Security system — has risen from $5.7 trillion to $7.8 trillion.

How did the Drudge Report headline their link to this article? “IN THE BLACK: Tax Receipts Exceed Treasury Predictions; U.S. to Repay Debt in Current Quarter…”