TCS Daily


What Is The Cost of Compassion?

By W. James Antle - September 26, 2006 12:00 AM

File this under famous last words, somewhere next to Herbert Hoover's pre-Depression promise that prosperity was right around the corner: "The only hope to stop the spending is to elect George W. Bush." Congressman John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) made this fateful prediction back in 2000, when most fiscal conservatives believed unified Republican control of Capitol Hill would bring about a smaller federal government.

Six years later, such hopes seem almost delusional. Together President Bush and congressional Republicans have brought about record increases in discretionary spending (much of it completely unrelated to the war on terror), an enlarged federal role in education and the biggest new entitlement since LBJ ushered in the Great Society. Conservative compassion has ended up having a price tag comparable to the liberal variety.

In his new book, Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government, Stephen Slivinski sets out to determine what went wrong. Buck Wild doesn't just rehash the same old sad statistics about Bush-era budget-busting. Slivinski, the director of budget studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, looks back in impressive detail at past attempts to limit government -- recalling the successes and failures.

Ronald Reagan's presidency disappointed small-government conservatives. Instead of eliminating Cabinet-level department as promised, he agreed to add one. Only a handful of significant federal programs were completely abolished. Spending continued to rise faster than revenues. The biggest budget cuts occurred during his first year in office, with spending restraint increasingly fizzling out thereafter.

Yet the 40th president's fiscal-policy record was vastly superior to that of today's GOP. In addition to achieving lasting reductions in marginal income tax rates and significant deregulation, real non-entitlement spending was $27 billion lower in 1989 than when Reagan took the oath. The federal budget declined as a percentage of GDP and the budgets of eight Cabinet agencies grew at less than the rate of inflation for eight years.

Republicans didn't make another serious attempt to rein in federal expenditures until after the 1994 elections. This time, the GOP controlled Congress but not the White House. Small-government sentiment was particularly strong in the House, where a core group of enthusiastic freshmen were elected on populist, anti-Beltway platforms and the leadership included such outspoken conservatives as Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey.

While the rhetoric outstripped the results, congressional Republicans did initially cut real non-defense discretionary spending. They abolished a number of small government programs and briefly looked like they were going to change the culture in Washington. And while Bill Clinton easily outmaneuvered them during the 1995-96 government shutdown impasse, they worked together to reform welfare and trim the capital-gains tax rate.

But it was, as Slivinski puts it, a "short-lived revolution." After Clinton bested them in the budget stalemates, the GOP congressional leadership lost its nerve. Incumbents grew comfortable and appropriators began rebelling against the fiscal hawks. Despite the presence of leading conservatives like Phil Gramm and the presidential ambitions of Bob Dole, the Senate became the place where Contract with America items went to die.

Republicans continued to blame the Clinton administration for the breakdown in budgetary discipline, but with Bush in the White House there are no more excuses left. With the GOP in control of the executive and legislative branches, government growth has only gotten worse.

Slivinski detects patterns that might suggest potential cures for the Republican majority's Potomac fever. Reagan's popularity was partly a reaction to the spending habits of Nixon-Ford Republicans while Gingrich's rise was fueled by George H.W. Bush's 1990 tax increase. The current wave of big-government conservatism may spark the next budget-slashing insurgency.

The author also contends there is nothing to fear from divided government. The 1981 Reagan budget cuts, the rate-flattening Tax Reform Act of 1986 and welfare reform all passed when the parties split control. And while several Republican government-cutters have prospered politically, overall the experiment in unified GOP government has been a failure for fiscal conservatives.

W. James Antle III is a senior writer for The American Conservative.

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19 Comments

too late
Bush did not betray fiscal conservatives, he did exactly what Krugman (and more or less anyone with a brain) said in 2000 he would do: explode the budget deficit with spending increases and tax cuts. The time for fiscal conservatives to oppose Bush was then, not now when it doesn't matter. Cynical after the fact "oh, I didn't know" pieces like this one will not restore AEI/Cato credibility.

Notice how this piece ignores Clinton, except to give Republicans credit for Clinton's welfare reform and balanced budgeting. Let's play statistician and try to "explain" the change in budget deficit between 2000 and 2001. What changed was not the majority party in Congress, but the party of the President. This supports the thesis that the party of the President, more than the party of Congress, determines the fiscal soundness of the nation.



credit
Are you actually stupid enough to believe that Clinton deserves any credit for welfare reform and budgetary discipline?

yes
Yes, and I gave a stupid reason for thinking so, which you oh great one are welcome to rebut.

easy
It was the republicans who pushed welfare reform.
Clinton only signed it when he realized that an election was rapidly approaching and welfare reform was highly popular with the public. He had previously vetoed virtually identical versions on two occassions.

The budgets passed by the Republican house and senate, were smaller than the budgets proposed by the Clinton administration.

Easy, for those who want to see.

Where Bush Failed
Since tax levies (i disagree with the use of the word "revenue", revenue implies earning through voluntary exchange) HAVE INCREASED-

Then by simple accounting, it has to be on the spending side-one of the key places this is most apparent is in exploding education funding, where at the elementary and secondary level there is absolutely no control on fiscal matters due to (especially in my state) teacher's salaries, expensive programs, warehousing deliquents and the inane idea that education requires expensive athletic facilities and perfect architecture to occur.

On the college level, where Liberal Goofball lives, we have an explosion of highly politicized, nondisciplinary, commercially useless majors (aka "Gay Studies", "Women's Studies", etc.), when we really need more doctors, nurses and engineers. This doesn't even begin to address other so-called "education" programs, such as the ones that you see advertising for "exciting careers" in masssage and cosmetology.

Yes, Bush failed-its time to expose the education parasite to the realities of fending for itself. In this regard, this President has failed, although to be sure, if he actually attempted to get the parasites of the public blood, they'd have used their copious leisure time to ensure mass demonstrations and demogogery.






Clinton and Bush
The problem with opposing Bush in 2000 was that his leading primary opponent was far worse, and his opponent in the main election was a nut case.
Clinton's main accomplishment in reducing the budget deficit was to emphasize short-term debt when interest rates were dropping, a brilliant and successful move. Other than that, his efforts were entirely devoted to raising government expenditures and taxes.
Bush the elder was tricked into worsening the situation. He agreed with democrats to raise taxes if budgets were cut. He signed the tax increase, and the democrats reneged on their promise to cut expenditures. Shame on G.H.W.Bush and anyone else stupid enough to believe a democrat promise.

tricks
The sad thing is Reagan fell for this same trick three times. Bush was standing at his shoulder when the Democrats pulled those tricks. That Bush the elder in his turn should then fall the same trick doesn't say much for his intelligence.

The most corrupt Nation ever!
Yes, this is my conclusion plain and simple, as a legal immigrant of 50 years and a Staunch Christian Conservative Republican. Voting is actually nothing but a real joke where money and more money is needed to tell ever bigger lies by both sides. Yes, American politics is getting worse than in the latin countries! As a matter of fact the despicable American floating dollar has and will continue to finance Castro and all his followers while most Americans do not have a clue! Of course, the terrorists and the illegal drug dealers consider it the Godsend directly from heaven above.

I base the above on what the American Constitution says, etc. The Founding Fathers would be horrified were they to wake and see that their nation is now truly a ruthless Empire, even worse under the full control of the Republicans who claim to be so holy, and the Federal Government growing ever more into a monster of monsters.

Two quotes from two of them: Overgrown military establishments under any form of government are inauspicious to liberty and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican liberty". George Washington as part of his farewell address. "Remember democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide". John Adams (letter to John Taylor, 15 April 1814)

If Ronald Reagan woke up he would beg to go back to his grave, especially if he had to hear that the George W. is the new Ronald Reagan, when in reality he the new Lyndon Johnson.

Bovine Excremement!
Democracy is the worst form of government ever, except for any other that's been tried (paraphrased from Winston Churchill)


Every election is an auction in advance of stolen goods.(paraphrased from H.L. Mencken)


I care not a whit about your religious profession, political disposition or party affiliation. Based on your other posts, I find your autocharacterization improbable.

If you really believe the this country is worse than Latin America-

DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE BACKSIDE WHEN HEADIN' SOUTH!


What is "excremement"?
If you mean excrement, as a farmer boy the pig excrement smells the worts. However, I do not know what kind of an animal you try to imitate, I demand that you reread what I said. Yes, if I claim to be a saint during the day and yet in the dark I steal a chicken every now and then from the next door neighbor, am I not worse than the guy that has no morals and acts accordingly?

Yes, Americas Constitution and its beginnings is the highest ever granted to any nation ever, and yet based on it, it behaves the worst of them all. Besides, I did not say that America is worse than latin America! I said its politics is getting worse than latin America. Yes, based on what America was granted, etc., etc., etc. Latin nations were never so blessed. America's example is helping to making them worse, as my comment proved as to the despicable floating dollar, etc., etc., etc.

Yes, this Nation under God has these despicable tobacco companies for the sole purpose of making money and paying taxes to the Government! They murder yearly 400,000+ of its onwn it seemingly loves and leaves thousands of families in dispair. Not satisfied, these same American Companies murder millions yearly the world over of the poor and ignorants as they make most of their income there. And now to add insult to injury our Food Industry is fattening America to make money period, while lying to its people through their teeth and thousands perish already yearly.

Yes, the terrorists are what they are and act out their evil desires and wish to kill Americans, where America, is not totally free of guilt anyway. Saddam the evil one, America went to bed with him in the interest of oil, and in the meantime, to hell with the Iraqui women and children, so that oil may flow into our SUV's etc., etc., etc.

As a Conservative Christian Republican, the God that America claims to operate under in reality has a greater problem with America than with those evil terrorists, is my conclusion.

By the way, millions of Americans have already followed you advised and are already living south. Maybe many of them enjoying some of their evil ways, as was the case with Cuba under Batista and Americans were hopping mad when Castro kicked him out. Yet in stupidity America keeps Castro supplied with American violated dollars. Alexander Hamilton would support my outrage!

Its a mispelling, just like "worts". Your words, my demands

"The most corrupt Nation ever!"

"Yes, American politics is getting worse than in the latin countries!"

I DEMAND YOU READ YOUR OWN WORDS!
I DEMAND YOU STOP CALLING YOURSELF CHRISTIAN!

Do not make "demands" on me to reread your claptrap. I've seen enough of your drivel to know that you are neither Christian or Conservative, your incoherent rants smack of leftist lunacy as does your insistence on reciting a litany of ills, largely from the standard leftist warcry.

If you wish to be a leftwing charicature, at least be a little better in cloaking your intellectual roots.

Bush and the Repubs are back stabbers...
...

Clinton did far too little to cut where democrats like to cut....
After the fall of the USSR one would have expecetd deomcrats to greatly cut the military and CIA but Clinturd did not do that. We still have troops in Germnany for crying out loud!

murder
How do the tobacco companies murder anyone? Do they hold them down and force them to smoke?

Nor do American companies murder anyone else.

Oooh, the "food industry" is fattening Americans.
I guess in your mind, Americans are too stupid to decide what to eat on their own.

And just how did America go to bed with Saddam in exchange for oil. The sanctions which we pushed put severe limits on the amount of oil Saddam was able to sell.

You really need to learn your history. America supported Castro, right up until the time, after the revolution, when Castro revealed that he was a communist.

Your claim to being a conservative Christian is disproven by your words. Your claims to be American are put in severe doubt by your inability to use English in any recognizeable form. Not to mention that even eric spells better than you do.

it could be populism, not strict leftism
populists hold that anything big is inherently evil, be it big government, or big corporations.

I guess superheater had thermostat failure?
Superheater's reaction is the best prove as to how people tend to react when they are beat and actually proves me to be right! So long, and have a better day tomorrow when you may have had your thermostat repaired!

HD26234 (Code for: System Failure, CPU nonfunctional)
You can't pen an intelligent thought that doesn't degrade into paranoid delusions and narcisstic fantasies. Trust me, you've got a long way before you can even match wits with Roy Bean, Liberal Goodman or Lemuel. Of course if you want to do the rhetorical equivalent of attacking fists with your face, have at it.

Your missives are nothing more than illogical screeds, inchoate rage against the machine, any machine, every machine.

Like I said before-If its so bad here GET OUT!

Thermostat still broken
Yes, no money to have it repaired? Poor guy!

Thank you
For demonstrating, clearly, convincingly and succinbtly, your inability to think. Of course, if you were judged on being smugly but falsely self-assured that you have a rapier whit, you'll have no problem.

Poor little man.

Now go to whatever country suits you better.

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