By practically any
tends to spend
much more than his
The American Spark
Bush: Biggest Spender In White House Since LBJ
By Cliff Montgomery - Oct. 29th, 2007
Though George W. Bush recently has pretended to be a president of a small government with a tiny budget,
he in fact is the biggest spender to hold the White House since Lyndon B. Johnson. Many experts add that
Bush probably spends even more than LBJ.
“He’s a big government guy,” Cato Institute director of budget studies Stephen Slivinski told McClatchy
Newspapers in a recent interview. The Cato Institute is a libertarian opinion tank.
Bush's spending ways are blatantly clear and conclusive, said Club for Growth executive director David
Keating. The Club for Growth is a budgetary watchdog group.
“He’s a big spender...No question about it,” Keating flatly told McClatchy papers.
By practically any measure, Bush tends to spend much more than his presidential predecessors.
Inflation-adjusted discretionary spending--the budget matters which the president and Congress can directly
control, such as domestic programs and defense spending, as opposed to such entitlements as Medicare and
Social Security, which they cannot--leapt up about 5.3 percent every year of Dubya’s first six years in office,
That's a fair degree higher than the 4.6 percent yearly rate which Lyndon Johnson maintained during his
presidency, from 1963-69--and Johnson was fighting both a major war in Vietnam and a "War on Poverty"
here at home.
Still, Bush's spending far outstrips Johnson's.
Discretionary spending skyrocketed in Bush's first White House term by 48.5 percent--at least according to
numbers not adjusted for inflation. This is more than double the 21.6 percent spent by previous President Bill
Clinton in two complete terms, Slivinski told McClatchy papers.
In fact, by the end of Clinton's tenure, "the federal budget showed a surplus for the year 2001of $281 billion--
the largest in Americans history," wrote former Clinton advisor Paul Begala in his 2002 book, It's Still The
And according to a January 2001 Congressional Budget Office study, America was on its way to eliminating its
entire national debt by 2009.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan--a Republican--had no problem rendering a tough verdict
on George W. Bush's free-spending ways in his recently-published memoir, The Age of Turbulence:
Adventures in a New World.
"My biggest frustration remained [George W. Bush's] unwillingness to wield his veto against out-of-control
spending," Greenspan wrote.
"Not exercising the veto power became a hallmark of the Bush presidency...To my mind, Bush's collaborate-
don't-confront approach was a major mistake."
But Greenspan levels his final judgment not merely at Bush, but at all neo-conservative Republicans who, he
says, had "lost their way" during their run of Congress from 1994 to 2006.
"House Speaker [Dennis] Hastert and House majority leader Tom DeLay seemed readily inclined to loosen the
federal purse strings any time it might help add a few more seats to the Republican majority," he wrote.
"They swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither," added Greenspan.
Like the faithful neo-conservative he is, Bush spent the lion's share of America's deficit on his War Machine.
Under Dubya, the War Machine has enjoyed an annual growth of 5.7 percent every year. Under President
Johnson--who had his own false war to fund--Defense budgets grew by an average of 4.9 percent each year.
The numbers, provided by McClatchy Newspapers, have been adjusted for inflation.
When one includes both the false war of Iraq and the real war in Afghanistan, War Machine spending has
jumped 86 percent since Bush took office in 2001, says Chris Hellman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-
Even after eliminating war costs, Bush's annual defense spending is 25 percent higher than Ronald Reagan's
during the height of his apparent spend-off with the Soviet Union, Hellman told McClatchy papers.
But as Greenspan made clear, Bush's hyper-spending is about so much more than just the War Machine.
Budget analyst Brian Riedl works for the Heritage Foundation, a neo-conservative opinion group. Riedl notes
that Bush has spent yearly increases of 18 percent more than Clinton had spent for education. According to
Riedl, this is primarily due to Bush’s No Child Left Behind act.
And then there was the 2002 farm legislation, Riedl added, which doubled agricultural spending.
Nor did he forget the 2003 Medicare benefit for prescription drugs--the largest single expansion in the history
of the program. The 10-year costs of that expansion may exceed $700 billion, according to Riedl.
The 2005 highway proposal also contained thousands of “earmarks”--special local projects added to the bill by
separate lawmakers without review. Final cost: $295 billion.
“[Bush] has presided over massive increases in almost every category…a dramatic change of pace from most
previous presidents,” Slivinski told McClatchy papers.
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