NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Liberal and Conservative Critiques of President Bush's Spending

January 7, 2004

President Bush's spending policies are being criticized by both liberals and conservatives, says E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, but for different reasons:

  • Liberals regularly hit Bush's tax cuts for creating big budget deficits and also for limiting the government's ability to spend more on health care and education.
  • Conservative critics highlight big spending increases, particularly in the expansion of entitlements.

Dionne writes, "What bothers conservatives, says Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, are the domestic areas in which Mr. Bush has voluntarily increased the federal government's reach, specifically the new $400 billion prescription drug benefit under Medicare."

(An entitlement program is one that provides cash benefits or services to legally defined classes of people -- the poor, elderly or children, for instance -- without limiting spending to specific congressional appropriations.)

Spending on existing entitlements -- particularly Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security -- is increasing, but those costs are driven by demographics, health care cost increases and the economy.

Adding a new entitlement, however, is a choice. Conservatives, Bartlett says, might have supported a more modest program to help seniors who currently don't have drug coverage. But the program was broadened to larger groups of seniors, including those with existing coverage.

Liberal groups, such as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, say that funding in areas outside international and homeland security and entitlement programs (so-called discretionary domestic spending) has fallen slightly when inflation is taken into account. They argue that the tax cuts will create a long-term fiscal crisis that conservatives will use to push for large spending cuts.

Thus, Bush's fiscal policies have left Democratic presidential candidates arguing over whether to repeal just some or all of the tax cuts.

Source: E.J. Dionne (Washington Post), "Bush's Budget Policies Don't Add Up," Dallas Morning News, January 7, 2004.


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