NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 30, 2005

The Bush administration is at the top of the list when it comes to spending, says the Cato Institute, beating out two other Republican presidents and even two Democratic presidents.

According to side-by-side comparisons using data from the Congressional Budget Office:

  • Discretionary spending has jumped 48.5 percent during the Bush administration, twice as much as during Clinton's presidency (21.6 percent) and slightly higher than Lyndon Johnson's term (48.3 percent).
  • Even when adjusted for inflation, Bush's spending rate tops Johnson's; he has expanded federal entitlement programs almost twice as fast as Johnson did.
  • Of the last five presidents, Reagan was the most frugal; he actually cut non-defense discretionary spending by 9.5 percent.

Bush administration officials argue that hikes in discretionary spending are needed for the war on terrorism domestically and abroad, including Iraq and Afghanistan. However, this alone does explain increases in the overall defense budget. In all, this only accounts for 16 percent of combined defense spending over the past four fiscal years.

Furthermore, additional expenses for rebuilding the Gulf Coast region after Hurricane Katrina have not been fully included, and are expected to total a whopping $200 billion over the next few years.

Source: Stephen Slivinski, et al., "Bush Beats Johnson: Comparing the Presidents," Tax & Budget, no. 26, October 2005, Cato Institute.

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