My blog contains a large number of posts. A few are included in various other publications, or as attached stories and chronicles in my emails; many more are found on loose leaves, while some are written carelessly in margins and blank spaces of my notebooks. Of the last sort most are nonsense, now often unintelligible even when legible, or half-remembered fragments. Enjoy responsibly.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Big Government

Here is the biggest secret in all of Washington: Both the Republicans and Democrats love big government. It guarantees them jobs, makes them more powerful and creates an almost unbreakable institution in which they can run the show. The only difference is that they like big government in different places.

Lately there has been a pseudo-outcry by Republicans over the stimulus bill heading through Congress. Their latest charge is the true and tried "borrow and spend" assault that has worked well for them. Yet when you look at their own history back through the 1980’s, they have done the exact same for their own pet causes.

During Reagan’s Administration government spending increased by 69%, with a 92% increase in defense spending as he built up the military to confront the Soviet Union (none of these numbers are adjusted for inflation). When he left office the economy was growing and the size of the government as a share of total economic production had shrunk slightly, from 22.2% to 21.2%. In contrast, Clinton’s Administration increased government spending by 32% during his time in office; which was decreased by the rapid slowdown in defense spending after the Cold War ended. When he left office, Clinton’s defense spending had increased by just 4%. So the combination of restrained growth in government and a booming economy meant that government's size as a percentage of the economy dropped from 21.4% to 18.5%.

Next up was George W. Bush, who boosted government spending by 68 % in his eight-year presidency, spearheaded by a 126% increase for defense as he waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush's spending totals don't include the $700 billion bank bailout added last fall to his final fiscal year, or the $787 billion stimulus package added early this year, but by the time he left office, Bush's government had grown as a share of the economy from 18.5% to 22%.

Over the last couple of weeks Republicans have done everything that they could to brand Obama as another Big Government liberal. And even while Obama speaks of hope and optimism about the economy, he will probably increase government spending for the next two years, only to lower if back down to that same 22% by the end of his first term – the same as George W. Bush at the end of his presidency and slightly more than Reagan at the end of his.

The interesting thing to watch is Republicans crying Big Government while approving of any spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or on weapons systems such as the F-22 Raptor fighter jet being developed by Lockheed Martin. Even such Rush sycophants like Georgian Republican Representative Phil Gingrey has recently brought an argument to the floor that buying nearly 200 more of the F-22 Raptor jets (he attempted to claim that they were needed to defend ourselves from China and Russia) at $160 million each, is a good investment. If you’re trying to do the math in your head, that’s 32 billion dollars worth of Big Government on something even the military deemed unnecessary.

What it comes down to is that Obama and other Democrats want a big government that addresses their priorities, not the Republicans' agenda. Being a liberal myself, I see the military complex of Big Government that the Republicans pushed through over the last twenty years as wasteful, but the Big Government of education, energy conservation, health care… that the Democrats are now trying to push as worthwhile investments. So in the future, when you hear someone say that they are against Big Government, ask them what specifically they don’t wish to fund. I have a strange feeling that you’ll be able to pick out their political leanings fairly quickly.

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