NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 17, 2005

President Bush has been given a new nickname: big spender, according to the Cato Institute (Cato). He has presided over the largest overall increase in inflation-adjusted federal spending since Lyndon B. Johnson, becoming the biggest-spending president in 30 years, adds Cato. Even his 2006 budget does nothing to cut spending or change his place in history.

During Bush's first term:

  • Total government spending grew by 33 percent.
  • Additionally, the federal budget, as a share of the economy, grew from 18.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on Clinton's last day in office to 20.3 percent by the end of Bush's first term.

Ironically, the Republican Congress has assisted in the budget increase. Spending on the combined budgets of the 101 largest programs they vowed to eliminate in 1995 has grown by 27 percent, says Cato.

More changes in the GOP can be seen when examining their effectiveness at controlling nondefense spending.

  • Under Clinton, the final nondefense budgets were $57 billion smaller than he proposed.
  • Under Bush, Congress passed budgets that spent $91 billion more than he requested for domestic programs.
  • Bush signed every bill that crossed his desk and Congress passed his new budget exactly as proposed, not a single cabinet-level agency will be smaller than when Bush assumed office.

Republicans could reform the budget rules that encourage more spending, but senior House Republicans are fighting the changes. They have shown an interest in expanding government and the new GOP has become a defender of big government, concludes Cato.

Source: Stephen Slivinski, "The Grand Old Spending Party: How Republicans Became Big Spenders," Cato Institute, Policy Analysis No. 543, May 3, 2005.

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