Republicans routinely portray themselves as fiscal guardians. In truth, they, like the Democrats, are irresponsible wastrels. Outlays are up by one third under President George W. Bush, making him the biggest spender since Lyndon B. Johnson. As the Cato Institute’s Stephen Slivinski observes, “Even after excluding spending on defense and homeland security, Bush is still the biggest-spending president in 30 years.”
In contrast, Ronald Reagan cut real domestic spending. Notes Slivinski: “George W. Bush’s tenure, however, is a return to the Johnson and Carter philosophy of budgeting: across-the-board increases in defense as well as nondefense spending, and at astonishing rates.”
Other than a brief moment after the GOP gained control of Congress in 1994, Republican legislators have shown little interest in controlling spending. Outlays continue to move ever upward, irrespective of year or party—or program effectiveness. In its 1994 Contract With America, the GOP promised to kill three Cabinet departments and more than 200 programs. All of the departments and all but 19 of the programs survive. The collective budget of the largest 100 programs on the Republicans hit list are up more than a quarter, even after adjusting for inflation.
Since 2001, total domestic outlays have jumped an incredible 36 percent. As for the Bush...