November 30, 2003

Ann Coulter vs. Al Franken

Harry Binswanger on Ann Coulter and Al Franken:

The value of Coulter's book (abstracting from its flaws) is not in its concretes, but in the ideas that the concretes illustrate. Yes, Coulter is savage, overstates, ridicules, and sometimes oversimplifies. But she has a mind. Franken does not. She sees the big picture of what's going on in this country. Franken not only doesn't, he twists the picture, as in his denying the leftist bias in the media.

November 27, 2003

Medicare Fraud: Reforming our way to bankruptcy

Excellent article by Jacob Sullum on the Medicare bill:

Economists Jagadeesh Gokhale and Kent Smetters estimate that the long-term imbalance between Medicare costs and revenues under existing law is something like $36 trillion, more than five times the current national debt. Given a problem of this magnitude, the gestures toward reform in the Medicare bill—limited medical savings accounts, higher premiums for beneficiaries making more than $80,000 a year, and a six-city experiment with private competition that's supposed to begin in 2010—are pretty pathetic.

Especially since the price of getting these meager changes was a drug benefit that will add trillions to Medicare's fiscal imbalance while taking from the poor and giving to the rich. As the Heritage Foundation's Robert Moffit notes, the drug plan "will guarantee that low-income working people pay the drug bills of rich retirees with six-figure incomes." Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), one of the few Republicans who placed principle above politics by voting against the bill, called it "the largest tax increase that one generation has put on another generation in the history of the country."

After the Senate approved the bill, President Bush bragged that "year after year the problems in the Medicare system were studied and debated," and finally "we got something done." Sometimes nothing is better than something.
Ann Coulter talking action figure

Is it just me or is this a little strange?

Push the button on the figure, and you'll hear such "Coulterisms" as:


"Liberals can't just come out and say they want to take more of our money, kill babies, and discriminate on the basis of race."

"At least when right-wingers rant, there's a point."

"Swing voters are more appropriately known as the 'idiot voters' because they have no set of philosophical principles. By the age of fourteen, you're either a Conservative or a Liberal if you have an IQ above a toaster."

"Why not go to war just for oil? We need oil. What do Hollywood celebrities imagine fuels their private jets? How do they think their cocaine is delivered to them?"

"Liberals hate America, they hate flag-wavers, they hate abortion opponents, they hate all religions except Islam, post 9/11. Even Islamic terrorists don't hate America like Liberals do. They don't have the energy. If they had that much energy, they'd have indoor plumbing by now."

November 25, 2003

Body Snatchers: How can you tell the evil party from stupid party?

Tim Cavanaugh on the reversal (?) of roles between the republicans and democrats:

Briefly, the report by Brian M. Riedl reveals that Republicans have managed to increase spending to a level of $20,000 per household, the highest it's been since World War II. Federal spending has increased by $296 billion in the last two years; only 45 percent of that spending has been related to the war on terror - quite an achievement considering that the GOP already gives itself enormous latitude in defining war-related spending. The remaining 55 percent has been taken up with such traditional GOP faves as unemployment (up 85 percent since 2001), education (up 65 percent) and general government costs (up 63 percent, largely thanks to federal bailouts of state governments).

But perhaps this focus on domestic spending tells only part of the story. Certainly a look at foreign policy initiatives should reveal the Republicans and Democrats at their traditional best, with GOP hawks standing up for America's interest while dithering Democrats lay waste their talents with Wilsonian skylarking.

Perhaps not. Since the invasion of Iraq, virtually all the traditionally conservative arguments for the war - threats to national security, protection against expansionist rogues, etc. - have vanished like the gambler's lucky streak. In their place, the war's proponents have fallen back on the very gushiest of neo-liberal wishes about helping unfortunate foreigners get a hand up (and a handout). The role reversal here has been especially stark: Bush Administration allies now expect us to root for the welfare of Iraqis who are driven by societal root causes to mutilate the bodies of American soldiers.

November 24, 2003

Pat Toomey Supporters meetup.com group

http://toomeyforsenate.meetup.com/
Freebooters swoop on 'live free or die' New Hampshire

The Free State Project has chosen New Hampshire:

New Hampshire was named the "chosen state" only a month ago, but already some have migrated there. "Having so many people move into a state means we can really raise issues," Justin Somma, a freelance writer, told The New York Times, after relocating to the town of Keane from New York. "Once we start to elect people to the statehouse, I think the low-hanging fruit will be educational reform and medical marijuana."

Largely rural New Hampshire was selected in a nationwide poll, beating other contenders such as Alaska, Maine, Montana and Wyoming. The physical size of the state was important - New Hampshire is small, which will help the project members organise - and it already has a tradition of small government. It has lax or liberal gun laws, depending on your point of view, and no state income tax or sales tax.

So far the project is still in its infancy, with just over 5,000 members across the US. Three project members who stood in local elections earlier this month but did poorly have already been welcomed by some in New Hampshire, among them Governor Craig Benson.

"We'd love to have you," he told them at a recent meeting. "You're active, you want to make the state or the towns and cities you hope to live in a better place, and that is the core value of New Hampshire. I think New Hampshire should be open to everybody. If we start to say to people 'What are your values?' and before you come to New Hampshire we want you to pass a quiz, then by definition we close the diversity of New Hampshire down."

November 23, 2003

Bush's Budget Betrayal

Christopher Westley on Bush's fiscal policy:

One recalls the story about the first President Bush around the time that he was breaking his "No New Taxes" pledge—a profile in cowardice that would cost him reelection. While being pestered by reporters about his decision, he told them not to place as much importance in what he said as in what he did. "Read my hips," he told them, paraphrasing one of his signature lines.

This is a lesson that should be applied to George W. as well. While his political rhetoric is on target with an electorate that demands smaller government, his actions bring forth benighted memories of that other activist president from Texas, Lyndon Baines Johnson.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. Did anyone who voted for Bush think that he would far surpass Clinton in expanding the Leviathan state? In 1999, Harvard University economist Martin Feldstein ominously warned in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that unless President Clinton's budget plans were defeated by congressional Republicans, government spending would increase by $850 billion over the next decade, on top of the $2.5 trillion increase already called for in current law (much of which was off-budget spending).

Little did Feldstein realize that as he wrote, an even more aggressive spender was preparing a bid for the White House under the banner of fiscal restraint and a more humble foreign policy but who, once elected, would make the reckless Clinton look like the model of probity with respect to domestic and foreign policies. Under the Bush Administration, the national debt will increase by more than $850 billion in two years.

Perhaps Feldstein should have checked with his colleague in the Harvard economics department, Jeffrey Frankel, who would not have been surprised by an even bigger government under a Republican president. In an important paper published last year, Frankel noted the discrepancy between the lips and hips of Republican presidents, resulting from Republican rhetoric creating an impression of fiscal responsibility (the lips), and the actual big government policies pursued by Republicans once they reach office (the hips).

November 19, 2003

The beastly British

Roger Scruton writes about the deeper meaning of the British obsession with royal scandals:


The Prince attracts this kind of malicious character-assassination because he is heir to the throne, symbol of our national loyalty and endowed with all the dignities of office. He is, in so far as such a thing is possible in the modern world, surrounded by a small measure of sacred awe. Ordinary people of my parents’ generation were aware of this, since they had been through the experience of war, had understood how precious national loyalty is, and had recognised how effectively it had been sustained and renewed by the glamour and the pathos of the Crown. New Britons are not like that. If they encounter something sacred, their first instinct is to desecrate - to bring it down to their level, the level of Big Brother, at which vulgarity and obscenity are not only accepted but also publicly endorsed, as a sign that you are not trying to get above your neighbours. National loyalty is occluded in the popular imagination, and its symbols seem to have no special authority. Or if they retain any authority, it is felt only as an invitation to jeer.

Some people - Guardian readers pre-eminently - believe that this situation can be remedied by declaring a Republic; thereby recognising that the head of state is, after all, an ordinary bloke like you and me and therefore invulnerable to the lust for desecration. But that belief is, in my view, naive. The republican constitution of the United States did not protect President Clinton from being humiliated for what was, after all, only an office affair. And the republican constitution of France so glamorises the office of president that its present occupant is able to forbid any mention of his devious deals. In truth, every state depends upon symbolic offices through which the shared national loyalty can be expressed and ratified. If offices are to retain this function, they must be endowed with a protective veil of charisma. The British people are conniving with the media establishment to tear that veil away, to show that the occupants of the highest offices in the land are - amazingly - human beings, and to suggest in the course of this that no mere human being has the right to such a position. More simply put, they are engaged in collective treason - treason not to the monarchy, but to themselves as a sovereign people.

November 18, 2003

Youth leads French libertarians

Washington Times article on Sabine Herold:

Some conservatives liken Sabine Herold, a 22-year-old student, to Joan of Arc, and others nickname her "Mademoiselle Thatcher" after she took on France's left-wing labor unions this summer.
Many in France see her as a symbol of a growing revulsion among young French libertarians against a ruling class that punishes excellence and rewards mediocrity.
"A generation of reformers, who can't bear the blocking of the [French] society anymore, is emerging. There will be soon an electoral power of people who really want to change the status quo," said Miss Herold.
The Blogosphere: a free-market anarchy

Jonathan Wilde provides a brilliant response to Jennifer Howard's article "It's a Little Too Cozy in the Blogosphere":

Whereas democracy coercively shuts out unpopular choices, the blogosphere, like a free-market, gives rise to niche markets. I have never heard of any of the blogs cited by Howard, and I am sure she has likely never heard of Catallarchy. Is this 'too cozy'? Or does it reflect the fact that the almost unlimited choices available in this market allow individuals to find other individuals of similar tastes no matter how particular those tastes are? Yes, bloggers often link to other blogs of similar mind, but this is not a consanguineous failure of the blogosphere to explore new ideas. Instead, it is the natural course of a truly diversified marketplace of ideas.

For those of us who hold ideas that lie largely outside the mainstream, the blogosphere is a new market in which to grow. After being shut out of the traditional media for so long, the blogosphere gives us a cart in the global village bazaar of political thought from which to sell our principles to the common man. And like any good entrepreneurs, we will be successful if we understand the nature of the market and the preferences of our customers.

November 17, 2003

Howard Dean Signs the Death Certificate for Taxpayer Financing

John Samples says taxpayer financing of presidential campaigns may be coming to an end due to Howard Dean's decision:


Liberal Democrats don't usually declare a government program dead. Yet Howard Dean just did. He has declared an end to the long and useless life of taxpayer financing of presidential campaigns. Americans owe him a vote of thanks.

Dean has decided to forego public financing of his primary campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. He will be the first Democrat to run without the help of the taxpayers. Dean has asked his supporters to approve, by an email vote, his decision to run without public money. Like all good politicians, however, Dean wouldn't have asked for a vote if he didn't know how it would turn out.

(...)

By going outside the system, Dean makes it difficult, if not impossible, for other candidates to stay within the system and its limits on spending. Such competition will ultimately destroy presidential public funding or turn it into a zombie program -- apparently alive but actually dead as all serious candidates forego taxpayer financing.

Dean is doing the rest of us a favor. The presidential program has not fulfilled its goals. Consider the problem of corruption and citizen distrust of government. Since public financing of presidential campaigns began, the National Election Studies' trust in government index has twice (in 1980 and 1994) been lower than it was in the Watergate year of 1974; on three separate occasions since 1976 (in 1978, 1990, and 1992) public trust has been exactly as low as it was in the depths of the Watergate crisis. According to another National Election Studies survey, more Americans also believed that "quite a few" government officials were crooked after the elections of 1984, 1988, and 1992. In fact, the "quite a few" response rose continuously from 1984 to 1994, a period that saw three presidential elections funded by taxpayers. The public financing era has seen four years (1980, 1990, 1992, 1994) where more Americans believed "quite a few" government officials were crooked than so believed in 1974, the peak year of Watergate.

The presidential program has not increased electoral competition compared to the system of private financing it replaced. We have seen fewer candidates in the party presidential primaries since 1976 than in elections before that time. The two most successful independent candidates for the presidency of the last 50 years -- George Wallace and H. Ross Perot -- both ran without public backing. On the other side, taxpayers have had to give millions of dollars to political extremists like Lyndon LaRouche and Lenora Fulani.

November 16, 2003

Just say no to steel tariffs

Excellent article on the steel tariffs by George Will:

Last week the WTO said, for a second time, something that hardly needs saying at all -- that the tariffs the Bush administration imposed 20 months ago on imported steel are not justified by any demonstrated surge in steel imports, and are as illegal as picking pockets, which all tariffs do. As adolescents say when told something obvious: Duh.

Thirteen months after winning an excruciatingly close election, Bush proved himself less principled than Bill Clinton regarding the free trade principles that have fueled world prosperity since 1945. His tariffs were supposed to provide a three-year "breathing space'' for domestic steel makers -- who have been on the respirator of protection for decades.

Since then various studies, not all of them disinterested, have reached the same conclusion: By raising the cost of goods manufactured from steel, the tariffs have cost more jobs than they have saved. Duh.

(...)

In an election year, or in the year before an election year -- that is, in any year -- it is difficult for democracies to be governed sensibly, given the political class' preoccupation with cobbling together majorities from factions receiving government favoritism. Fortunately, the WTO has presented the president with an excuse to retreat from the futility of trying to erect a wall between the steel industry and reality. That protection comes at the expense of the 99.9 percent of Americans who are not steelworkers whose jobs are endangered.

A steel executive warns against "buckling'' to the WTO. Buckling? To an institution the United States helped to create in order to promote the free trade policies favored by every U.S. administration since the Second World War?

Alas, Bush may be tempted to play the national security card by arguing that tariffs are necessary because, well, tanks need steel. Five months after 9/11 he told a cattlemen's convention that agriculture subsidies are national security measures because "this nation has got to eat.'' That is nonsense, but entertaining.

November 12, 2003

EU wins in steel case with US

Hopefully, the U.S. will withdraw the tariffs and this will not degenerate into a full blown trade war led by special interests who benefit from proteccionism:

The US could be faced with huge sanctions following a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling on Monday that Washington's tariffs on steel imports were illegal.

The WTO's announcement is a victory for the EU and puts fresh pressure on the Bush administration to withdraw the tariffs.

(...)

Pascal Lamy, the EU Trade Commissioner, said that the EU would slap tariffs of between 8 percent and 30 percent on $2.2bn (€1.9bn) worth of US imports beginning on December 15, unless the US removed the steel tariffs, reports the Financial Times.

The sanctions would be the biggest in the history of the WTO.


November 11, 2003

Is Iraq Another Vietnam?

Ivan Leland analyses the similarities between the Iraqui situation and the Vietnam war:

As the insurgency in Iraq gets bolder, more sophisticated and more deadly, the hawks are falling all over themselves to pooh-pooh comparisons of Iraq to the debacle in Vietnam. But the White House should be alarmed that such comparisons are even being made. Despite some differences between the conflicts, in both wars avoiding defeat means winning "hearts and minds" -- of the American people.

The Vietnamese guerrilla war was larger, took advantage of jungle terrain and was blatantly sheltered and supported by outside powers. In Iraq, the insurgency is on a smaller scale (at least for now), but also gives the guerrillas some advantages. To win a war, you must first know whom you are fighting, and the U.S. Army’s intelligence in Iraq is deficient. In Vietnam, the U.S. military at least knew its enemy. In Iraq the situation is murky. In fact, it appears that U.S. forces may have multiple enemies using a variety of tactics and taking advantage of urban, rather than jungle, terrain.

(...)

So while the circumstances of the insurgency may differ from Vietnam, the political problem of being half-in and half-out is the same. The press is already demanding to know when U.S. troops can be reduced, while at the same time Joseph Biden, the senior Democratic Senator on the Foreign Relations Committee, is pressuring for American forces to be added. Perhaps Biden knows that committing more forces would mire the administration deeper in the quagmire, belie administration rhetoric that the situation in Iraq is improving -- the way the Tet Offensive in Vietnam belied the Johnson administration’s claim that the United States was winning the Vietnam War -- and be the beginning of the end for both public support for the war and the president’s political career. Iraq begins to look more like Vietnam every day.

November 10, 2003

The Fabric of Their Lives: U.S. cotton subsidies make the poor poorer

Jacob Sullum explains how cotton subsidies hurt poor farmers in less developed countries:

This arrangment, known as Step 2 of the "cotton competitiveness program," has cost taxpayers $1.7 billion during the last eight years. The payments have included $107 million to the Allenberg Cotton Co. of Cordova, Tennessee; $102 million to Dunavent Enterprises of Fresno, California, and Memphis, Tennessee; and $87 million to Cargill Cotton of Cordova, Tennessee.

You begin to see how Tennessee gets back $1.26 in spending for every dollar it sends to Washington. And these textile companies already benefit from trade barriers that restrict foreign competition, at the expense of American consumers and producers in other countries who do not have the same clout on Capitol Hill.

Speaking of foreign competition, the cotton subsidies are shameful not only because U.S. farmers should have to play by the rules of the market but because this welfare program for the well-to-do has a ruinous impact on poor farmers in other countries who do not enjoy such largess. By artificially boosting the cotton supply, subsidies depress world prices, driving farmers in countries such as Mali, Benin, and Burkina Faso out of business. Oxfam estimates that U.S. subsidies cost cotton-growing African countries $300 million a year.

November 09, 2003

First they banned cigarette advertising. Now they want to do the same to junk food

Following the interventionist and totalitarian trend of the last years this is hardly surprising:

The Government's food watchdog is proposing to ban "junk food" companies from sponsoring pop concerts and sports to combat obesity among children.

The Food Standards Agency says its targets would include Pepsi-Cola, which sponsors concerts by Britney Spears, Miss Dynamite, Beyonce and Enrique Iglesias, and Coca-Cola, which has sponsored the boy band Busted and the girl band Mis-Teeq.

November 07, 2003

A Democratic Iraq? Don't Hold Your Breath

Patrick Basham, from the Cato Institute, argues that the White House efforts to establish a stable democrocay in Iraq are unlikely to succeed:

However, President Bush's plan for the democratization of Iraq is premised upon the adoption of a constitution that will be successfully implemented in the short-term by groups of Iraqi elites bargaining among one another. Bush is placing a large wager that the formation of democratic institutions in Iraq can stimulate a democratic political culture. If he's correct, it will constitute a democratic first.

On the contrary, the available evidence strongly suggests that the causal relationship works the other way round. During the 1990s, two leading political scientists studied 131 countries and concluded that economic development causes higher levels of democratic values in the political culture that, in turn, produce higher, more stable levels of democracy. In sum, a political culture shapes democracy far more than democracy shapes the political culture.

Therefore, the Iraqi democratic reconstruction project will be a good deal harder than White House theorists expect. In practice, the realization of Iraq's democratic potential will depend more on the introduction of a free market economic system and its long-term positive influence on Iraqi political culture than on a United Nations-approved election.

November 04, 2003

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Daniel McCarthy has an interesting analysis of Michael Howard, the most probable next leader of the UK's Conservative Party:

The sinister reputation that has dogged him was acquired while he served as Home Secretary in John Major's government. He had made some missteps before, such as supporting the massively unpopular Poll Tax that brought down the Thatcher government. But it's for his tenure as Home Secretary that Howard is best remembered by the British public. He was a champion of hard-line policies. "Prison works" was his motto.

Howard campaigned to create a national ID card as a means to fight illegal immigration, and he curtailed the British "right to silence" -- roughly analogous to the Fifth Amendment -- so that juries could infer guilt from a defendant's refusal to answer questions. He tried to centralize Britain's police forces under the control of his office, a move which prompted one former Home Secretary, fellow Tory Sir Willie Whitelaw, to accuse him of politicizing law enforcement.

Controversial these measures were but crime statistics fell by some 18 percent under Howard, and his policies proved popular not only with the Tory grassroots but also, surprisingly, with certain Labour ministers. The present Home Secretary under Tony Blair, David Blunkett, has resurrected Howard's idea for a national ID card, for example, as a post-September 11 counter-terrorist measure. Howard himself, in turn, has supported some of Labour's Home Office initiatives, such as a proposal to abolish the prohibition on "double jeopardy" in murder cases.
The multicultural thought police

Leo McKinstry's Spectator article about the powerful and dangerous creed of multiculturalism:

In our modern secular society, we pride ourselves on our supposed tolerance. We sneer at the bigotry of the past, wondering how the monstrous cruelty of events such as the Spanish Inquisition could ever have occurred. But we should not be so smug. For in Britain today we have our own powerful creed - multiculturalism - which is imposed on the public by a political establishment that is brimming with self-righteous fervour. And anyone refusing to accept this dogma is likely to be branded a heretic, bullied and brainwashed until they change their opinions.

Only two decades ago, the central principle of anti-racism was that all individuals in our society should be treated equally, regardless of ethnic origin or religion. Yet through multiculturalism, the malign ideological spawn of anti-discrimination, we have moved far away from that stance. We are now told that, in the name of ‘celebrating diversity’, we must respect every aspect of every culture in our midst. Not only must we act correctly in word and deed, but, more importantly, we must also be trained to harbour no negative thoughts about the behaviour of any other ethnic group.

(...)

In some ways, multiculturalism is a reaction to the barbarity of Hitler’s Nazi regime. The sorry paradox is that, in its myopia over race and its hysterical intolerance of dissent, this doctrine is dragging us along the road towards tyranny.
'The Passion of Christ'

Robert Novak on Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ":

"The Passion" depicts in two hours the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life. To watch him beaten, scourged and crucified so graphically is a shattering experience for believing Christians and surely for many non-Christians as well. It makes previous movie versions of the crucifixion look like Hollywood fluff. Gibson wants to avoid an "R" rating, but violence is not what bothers Abe Foxman.

Foxman and other critics complain that the Jewish high priest Caiphas and a Jewish mob are demanding Christ's execution, but that is straight from the Gospels. Father C. John McCloskey, director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, told me: "If you find the Scriptures anti-Semitic, you'll find this film anti-Semitic."

(...)

At the heart of the dispute over "The Passion" is freedom of expression. Liberals who defended the right to exhibit Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ," which deeply offended orthodox Christians, now demand censorship of "The Passion of Christ." As a result, Abe Foxman and his allies have risked stirring religious tensions over a work of art.

November 02, 2003

GDP Data: Treat or Trick?

Excellent commentary by DW MacKenzie on the interpretation of the latest US GDP growth figures by Larry Kudlow and Paul Krugman:

Larry Kudlow has greeted the news this week of 7.2% GDP growth with great enthusiasm. He sees a 'barnburner recovery' in this data. This, he thinks, is a true recovery. What is the source of this recovery? Capital expenditures rose 11%, up from 8% from the last quarter. A combination of tax cuts and expansionary monetary policy from the fed spurred an investment boom. As Kudlow writes, with the Fed accommodating investment with "15% growth in the basic money supply" and lower taxes increasing profitability investment will spend more on capital goods. Consumer confidence will improve also, but it is investment that drives the economy.

Kudlow has a dismissive tone towards demand side Keynesians, but his reasoning is not all that different. Kudlow views public policy as a means to stimulate the economy by stimulating investment spending. He does mention incentives hear and there, but he also fails to realize that it is consumer demand for final goods and services that are ultimately "driving the economy". Economic efficiency does not derive from increasing investment spending and GDP. It derives from aligning the plans of consumers and entrepreneurs. This point warrants great attention. To see its importance, we should look at how a true Keynesian reacted to the announcement of higher growth.

Paul Krugman reacted cautiously to the latest news on GDP. This is somewhat odd, because the Bush Administration has been running huge deficits- exactly what Keynes prescribed for recessions. However, President Bush belongs to the wrong political party, so Krugman must invent some kind of problem pertaining to recent events.

Krugman reports that there was a significant pick up in investment spending. More importantly, consumer spending picked up as well. Consumer durables rose at an incredible 27% rate. Housing sales grew at 20% as well. What prompted this? "Consumers took advantage of low interest rates led to accelerate purchases that they would have made latter".

Krugman correctly recognizes that this cannot go on forever. Consumer expenditures cannot exceed consumer income, so consumer demand must fall. This boom may be temporary.

Paul Krugman has a unique talent for stumbling near the truth. It is quite true that low interest rates raise investment. Both consumer and investor spending cannot grow simultaneously for long. With increasing demand unemployment will fall. However, a general increase in spending- prompted by the fed expanding the money supply and decreasing interest rates- will increase prices in general. In other words, it will lead to inflation. This inflation will, as past episodes of inflation have, lead to another economic contraction and financial crash.
Record fiscal deficit in the US

Bad news for US taxpayers and for the US (and world) economy:

That broke the previous record of more than $290 billion posted in fiscal year 1992. As a percentage of the economy, the deficit totaled 3.5 percent, the largest since 1993.

(...)

The record gap will likely fuel political bickering over the deficit. The previous record deficit was posted by President Bush's father, and was a major issue in his losing bid for reelection in 1992. In 2000, the government posted a record surplus of $236.92 billion.