February 10, 2004

Spending Like a Drunken Democrat

Peter Eavis on Bush's spending record:

Forget the liberation of Iraq, George W. Bush will be remembered as the president who bankrupted America.

Every president of the past 40 years has contributed to the dire fiscal problems from which the United States now suffers. Bush, however, by massively increasing government spending and doing nothing to reduce the looming burden of Social Security and Medicare, will receive more blame than any of his predecessors.

A quick run through the numbers shows why future generations, weighed down by a national debt that is now growing at $1.8 billion a day, will look back in bewilderment, wondering why Bush, despite Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, decided to go for broke.

Under his administration, the national debt has gone up a stunning 24 percent, to $7 trillion. A chief reason for that increase is that Bush has enthusiastically promoted an explosion in government spending. In 2004, federal government outlays are expected to exceed $2.3 trillion, which is $500 billion more than in 2000. At nearly $500 billion, the budget deficit is close to 4.5 percent of gross domestic product, the sort of ratio usually seen in developing countries that are about to implode. Contrary to the White House’s absurd projections, private economists expect annual deficits of between $400 billion and $600 billion over the next 10 years.

According to recent research, it’s not as if budget questions lack urgency. Medicare and Social Security are under-funded to the tune of $43 trillion. Both programs are in need of immediate reform, as Baby Boomers will soon start hitting retirement age. Yet Bush further bloated the Medicare imbalance in December with a new drug plan costing at least $400 billion over 10 years. As for Social Security, Bush made reform of this entitlement program a centerpiece of his election campaign. He even told former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill that his Social Security plans were "what got me elected," according to Ron Suskind’s Price of Loyalty. But, beyond forming a special commission, Bush has done nothing to further restructuring of Social Security, which casts doubt on any promises he makes on this subject in the 2004 re-election campaign.

One shocking aspect of the past three years is that so many prominent conservatives don’t seem to care that Bush has splurged like crazy and added over $1 trillion to the nation’s debt in the process. The Republican Party in Congress, despite an ill-deserved reputation for favoring fiscal discipline, has done nothing to prevent Bush from dragging us into a fiscal morass. Instead, the GOP has participated wholeheartedly in Bush’s LBJ-like largesse. Its swing away from fiscal first principles has been breathtaking. The last big spending bill that went through Congress was so full of pork that the Republicans who voted for it deserve the fate of the Gadarene swine.