NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 17, 2007

President George W. Bush was the first Republican since Eisenhower to run for president without calling for cutting or abolishing a single government program. Since his election, Bush has presided over the largest expansion of government spending since Lyndon Johnson initiated the Great Society, says Michael D. Tanner, director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute.


  • Domestic spending has increased by 27 percent during his presidency. 
  • More people now work for the federal government than at any time since the Cold War.  
  • Not a single federal program has been eliminated.

The expansion of the federal government under the Bush presidency goes far beyond mere dollars, however, says Tanner.  For example, this president has:

  • Enacted the largest new entitlement program since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, an unfunded Medicare prescription drug benefit that could add as much as $11.2 trillion to the program's unfunded liabilities.
  • Dramatically increased federal control over local schools while increasing federal education spending by nearly 61 percent.
  • Signed a campaign finance bill that greatly restricts freedom of speech, despite saying he believed it was unconstitutional.
  • Authorized warrantless wiretapping and given vast new powers to law enforcement.
  • Federalized airport security and created a new cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security.

During his presidency, President Bush also:

  • Added roughly 7,000 pages of new federal regulations, bringing the cost of federal regulations to the economy to more than $1.1 trillion.
  • Enacted a $1.5 billion program to promote marriage.
  • Proposed a $1.7 billion initiative to develop a hydrogen-powered car.
  • Abandoned traditional conservative support for free trade by imposing tariffs and other import restrictions on steel and lumber.
  • Increased farm subsidies.

Individually, the merits of each of these items can be debated.  Taken as a whole, they represent an undeniable shift toward big government, says Tanner.

Source: Michael D. Tanner, "Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservativism Brought Down the Republican Revolution," Cato Institute, February 16, 2007.

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