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Bush's spending, by the numbers

Some of my friends often accuse me of being too hard on the president. (I'll now pause to allow my liberal readers to stop laughing.) More often than not when this happens, the subject being discussed is federal spending.

Almost everyone will concede I'm right on this issue (i.e., that Bush spends money like a drunken frat boy in a Tijuana whorehouse), even stalwart Bush apologists like Sean Hannity. Often, however, they'll shrug it off with a glib "nobody's perfect" kind of dismissal. It's as if his fiscal policy is a drawback, but no more significant in the overall scheme of things than his syntactically-challenged oratory style.

Would that it were so. This is not some trivial flaw in an otherwise idealized conservative leader. Fiscal policy is THE BIG DEFINING ISSUE of traditional conservatism. Bush and the congressional Republicans are not only failing to live up to conservative ideals, but are gleefully running roughshod over them, running the country with fiscal recklessness that makes Lyndon Johnson look like Jack Benny.

The numbers are here in this PDF from the Heritage Foundation, and they're not pretty. I'd recommend that everyone download it, read it in its entirety and keep it for future reference, but I'll go ahead and include a few highlights just for the hell of it.

First, let's go ahead and toss out everything that the administration and congress might be able to make excuses for: entitlements, defense spending, homeland security and Katrina relief. Here's what's left.

That's a 21% increase in everything else during the Bush administration... after adjusting for inflation. Cute, huh?

Total federal spending has grown twice as fast under Bush than it did under Clinton, now amounting to nearly $22,000 per household. And again, this is not all about military spending. The Bush years have seen a 137% increase in education spending (think "No Child Left Behind"), a 342% increase in "Community and Regional Development" (good thing those "liberals" aren't in charge of our money, huh?) And a 29,022% increase in "Energy" spending, whatever the hell that is. And no, that is not a typo.

In a budget this size, much of which is mandated, pork barrel projects still account for a tiny fraction of the overall pie, but they're nonetheless a glaring and indicative symptom of what's gone wrong during the Republican's slide into fiscal hell. Here's how pork projects have fared during the Bush years.

This is indefensible, and Republicans have to stop defending it. It's insufficient to pay lip service to fiscal prudence, bemoan the current state of affairs, and then brush it off with "But Democrats would be worse."

Here is what (to me) is the most disturbing chart of all. It shows what's going to happen if entitlement programs are not reformed and continue on their current growth paths.

Granted, these costs are mandated, so it's not entirely fair to lay the blame for them at Bush's feet. Nevertheless, Bush and the GOP-controlled congress have done precious little to ameliorate these trends.

To be fair, there's stuff in this report that's going to displease Democrats as well. For starters, the report shows a strong correlation between tax revenues and economic growth. Bush's tax cuts helped to increase federal revenues by 14% in 2005. The current budget deficits are not a function of tax cuts, but rather of a spending policy that is completely out of control.

Also, it's going to be tough for Bush's critics to pimp their same shopworn arguments about how the costs of "tax cuts for the rich" are borne on the backs of the little people. Anti-poverty spending has soared 39% under Bush, representing an all-time high of 16% of the federal budget.

Still, this is a sad portrait of what has become of America's "conservative" party. For my part, I'm going to wait and see what effect the Abramoff scandal and Boehner's election to majority leader have on congressional governance. They've got one last chance, and I hope they take it, although I'm not optimistic. If things don't change and change significantly, I'm going to seriously consider voting for Democrats in the mid-terms (I nearly always vote a straight Libertarian ticket when it comes to congressional candidates.)

No, the Democrats may well not be any better. But the people who have done this do not deserve reelection, period.


might i remind you that although bush has spent lots of money, clinton had an affair, and that is far worse

This is why we NEED a strong second Party and why the Democrats, at least so long as they remain a "Keynesian Party," are NOT capable of being that strong second Party.

Even Blue Wind has acknowledged that government-run economies don't work, so we're left with either some form of Corporatism, the economy we currently have, or the actual Free Market.

The two Parties SHOULD be the Republican Corporatists against the Libertarian Free Marketeers.

A budget that does not include the costs of the 2 wars or the Katrina recovery but does include several billion bucks of revenue from a non-existent ANWR drilling program is a budget that is a joke, an embarrassment and an insult to our intelligence from an Administration that apparently doesn't give much of a shit.

The big problem is all the mandated, or non-discretionary entitlement spending and "we the people" have proven we want no part in reining it in.

Last Spring, a very modest change in Social Security was tabled and promptly rejected. Any move by Dems to "save" Social Security with tax increases will also be rejected out of hand, NOT only by Republicans, but by the people as well.

The people want free stuff and they don't want to pay for it and since politicians have been promising them precisely that for over fifty years, they don't understand why they can't have it.

We've consitently shown that we don't have the will to cut Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security or any of the Dependency...errr "anti-poverty" programs either.

We ALL want to be generous....with OTHER PEOPLE'S money.

Sadly all these expenditures come with built-in escalators that increase the costs of these programs each year.

The educational spending is a joke, more bucks for less bang and no accountability. In many parts of Western Europe failing schools are closed, reorganized in another setting, because they believe the problems in a failing school are endemic to that entire organization top to bottom.

The fact that we wouldn't dream of doing that here, shows how little commitment we have to accountability.

Another huge factor is the "bureaucratic factor." Take NYC for example. Here NYPD, FDNY & other municipal agencies overtime is a budget killer and every Mayor has tried to get control over it, but there are always loopholes around the Executive (Mayoral) decree, as event-based, emergency-based and "other OT" is unable to be coralled, since it isn't planned for. So, the budgets for these agencies just keep on increasing.

I'm certain the same thing happens on a national level. Agencies which survive at taxpayer expense do not much like managers/politicians who seek to cut their budgets and I'm sure they do what NYC's Police & Fire do, keep putting in for extra expenses and "other overtime" that must be paid "due to unforseen circumstances."

That's not the entire problem, a spendthrift Congress and an Executive who's lost his Veto pen are a big part, but curbing even growth in a bureaucracy is as difficult, if not even more so, than trying to convince the American people that they can't have something for nothing.

Beyond all that is the fact that the current war effort and the resulting Homeland Security expansion have been a HUGE part of our deficit spending, despite attempts by government to try and mask their impact.

Homeland Security has you & I paying for thousands of emergency workers being paid to attend tens of thousands of hours of training across the country and those costs don't only include the training, travel and lodging for the attendees, but for "backfilling" the Units they've left short, with overtime employees. And still EVERY municipality wants MORE.

Like with every "need," there is a bottomless well of want out there, but only a finite amount of resources to deal with it.

Bush has been poor at saying "no," to spending, but with entitlement spending guaranteed and with the costs of the current and ongoing war effort abroad and the Homeland Security expenses at home hardly opposed by anyone (I can't oppose them, at least not at this point), there's precious little they control that CAN be cut.

The people must find the will and sadly, short of an impending economic catastrophe, they are wont to show any such will at all. We all want OUR free stuff left alone and the "other guy's" free stuff cut off.

Here's a start:
Slice the Dept of Education's $54.4 BILLION request for fy07 by 2/3ds.

Forget Mars and the Moon; lets prioritize things. Cut NASA's $1.6 BILLION in half.

The Dept of Agriculture? $93 BILLION asked for in fy07...school lunch program, fine. meat inspections, fine. But $93 billion? Cut it in half.

The ever-mysterious Dept of Energy, and its $23.6 BILLION. Chop that by half, find out what this bureaucracy really does and then cut the remaining $11.8 Billion by a third.

So there's about $98 Billion shaved off the deficit. Toss in the several hundred million saved by keeping our Palestine aid, and we got an even $100 Billion.

I'd go along with that, but these bureaucracies have lives of their own. The cute trickk that many such bureaucracies try is to cut out the essential services they provide (if any) first, so as to most adversely impact the public. Look at any local school system. The first thing cut is things for the kids, next are teacher aids (like copier machines, etc) and the last thing touched are all those desk jockies at the board.

Many years ago, I believe it was Guiliani who wanted an inventory of 110 Livingston Street (the then Board of Education) and found that nearly half of those interviewd could not give their job description to the interviewer.

I figured all those folks should've been fired immeditately. I mean if you can't even describe what you're supposed to be doing, it can't possibly be all that vital.

Public education is just as f'd up in New Jersey...spending goes up and up and up and student performance remains static or declines. Yet the superintendents keep raking in their $125k-plus per year...

That's a DISGRACE and part of what cements that disgrace in place are Civil Service laws that protect incompetant workers who don't get the job done.

When a school fails SHAME should be heaped on EVERY teacher and administrator in that school, for being a part of that failure.

Apologists here claim that one of the reasons some school fail is that "they have to take on disruptive students."

That's not, in and of itself true.

While the educational system has to offer an education to ALL students, it CAN remove disruptive, behavior problems and place them in "boot camp" styled schools geared to give such students a "last chance."

That and the aversion to both discipline and standardized testing have doomed our current educational system.

And I live in a town where we don't have any "disruptive" students, unless you count the rich white kids of rich white parents as disruptive--with their cell phones from age 8, their new cars, designer clothes, fake boobs, sense of entitlement....

I know it's a "different age" now, but I still don't get how one single albeit, very scary Nun was able to keep 56 kids quiet and learning (those old Catholic schools always produced entire classes that did great on the various Regents Exams, the PSATs & SATs, etc), when the Public Schools, even back then, with two "teacher's aids," a teacher and a mere thirty students to a class couldn't keep control of those classes.

Discipline and standardized tests and school accountability seem to have been replaced with self-esteem, pass/fail, social promotion and no-fault administration.

The Teacher's Unions have certainly gotten their way. Unions have long fought for "more pay for less work," well, what's "less work than not teaching at all?"

no, no, please...don't mention nuns. I was in horrible catholic school in grades 1-3, back in the '60s when they could slap kids faces, smack their wrists with a ruler, make skirt-glad girls kneel--bare knees--in a dish of marbles as punishment. They were rotten people, and I actually was glad the day I heard my evil 2nd grade teacher had died years later.

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