Serious small-government Republicans are no doubt going through cognitive dissonance right now. Their party generally espouses the philosophy of limited government, especially on fiscal matters, but now that Republicans control the presidency and both houses of Congress, they are spending more wildly than liberal Democrats.
As The Washington Post reported Wednesday, “Confounding President Bush’s pledges to rein in government growth, federal discretionary spending expanded by 12.5 percent in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, capping a two-year bulge that saw the government grow by 27 percent.”
The newspaper attributes the numbers to congressional budget panels and argues that the forthcoming official Congressional Budget Office numbers are unlikely to be much different.
As the Post noted, much of the growth came in defense-related areas, such as fighting the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and spending on homeland security matters. But non-defense spending soared also, on discretionary domestic programs as well as entitlements. The article compared the one-year 12.5-percent hike to an average annual increase of 2.4 percent during the Clinton administration.
President Clinton’s liberal rhetoric and spending tendencies were often kept in check by a Republican Congress. But with President George W. Bush at the helm, Republicans are afraid to put the brakes on spending proposals, and the president can spend with the best of them.
Republicans also are keen on defense issues and GOP legislators often have been unable to resist spending when it is dressed up in rhetoric about national defense and homeland security.
Experts interviewed by the Post note the president rarely vetoes anything and that his administration is the biggest spending administration in the nation’s history. That’s shameful.
It’s troubling to watch such a large disconnect between words and deeds. Of course, we’ve seen that before with this president, who campaigned on a theme of a more “humble” foreign policy, then after 9/11 embraced one of the most ambitious foreign policies imaginable.
We are disappointed. President Bush and the GOP Congress need to get back to the principles they espouse.