Spending Restraint, Part I: Lessons from Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton
Uploaded by afq2007 on Feb 14, 2011
Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both reduced the relative burden of government, largely because they were able to restrain the growth of domestic spending. The mini-documentary from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity uses data from the Historical Tables of the Budget to show how Reagan and Clinton succeeded and compares their record to the fiscal profligacy of the Bush-Obama years.
Ronald Reagan was my hero and he did slow the growth of federal spending. In this post I did want to admit that Republicans have spent way too much in the past too, but we do have some spending cut heroes too. I have a lot of respect for Tea Party heroes like Tim Huelskamp and Justin Amash who are willing to propose deep spending cuts so we can eventually balance our budget.
Look at how things have been going the last four years and no matter how anyone tries to spin it, we are going down the financial drain fast. We got to balance the budget as soon as possible. Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute showed in an article that I posted earlier about how much spending has exploded the last four years.
John Brummett wrote in the online addition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on May 30, 2012:
Obama did indeed run up the deficit with a stimulus measure to keep the economy from collapsing as he entered office…But in regard to budgets that he actually has proposed as president, beginning with the one for the fiscal year starting nearly a year after his election, Obama has raised spending at a slower rate than Clinton…
Republicans simply are more effective than Democrats at declaring a simple untruth loudly and repetitively through a pliable and powerful echo chamber of talk radio and cable news, thus embedding that untruth beneath the superficial consciousness of people otherwise disengaged.
Now the truth of the matter is that Obama has spent around 25% of GDP when Clinton and most of the other presidents spent 20% or less. This fact allow disproves Brummett’s assertions listed above, but I will admit the Republicans have been guilty of spending too much also.
Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute sets the record straight concerning the Republican’s spending which has been excessive too at times:
May 30, 2012 by Dan Mitchell
In a post last week, I explained that Obama has been a big spender, but noted his profligacy is disguised because TARP outlays caused a spike in spending during Bush’s last fiscal year (FY2009, which began October 1, 2008). Meanwhile, repayments from banks in subsequent years count as “negative spending,” further hiding the underlying trend in outlays.
I then did another post yesterday, where I looked at total spending (other than interest payments and bailout costs) and showed that Obama has presided over the biggest spending increases since Lyndon Johnson.
Looking at the charts, it’s also rather obvious that party labels don’t mean much. Bill Clinton presided during a period of spending restraint, while every Republican other than Reagan has a dismal track record.
President George W. Bush, for instance, scores below both Clinton and Jimmy Carter, regardless of whether defense outlays are included in the calculations. That’s not a fiscally conservative record, even if you’re grading on a generous curve.
This leads Jonah Goldberg to offer some sage advice to the GOP.
Here’s a simple suggestion for Mitt Romney: Admit that the Democrats have a point. Right before the Memorial Day weekend, Washington was consumed by a debate over how much Barack Obama has spent as president, and it looks like it’s picking up again. …all of these numbers are a sideshow: Republicans in Washington helped create the problem, and Romney should concede the point. Focused on fighting a war, Bush — never a tightwad to begin with — handed the keys to the Treasury to Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert, and they spent enough money to burn a wet mule. On Bush’s watch, education spending more than doubled, the government enacted the biggest expansion in entitlements since the Great Society (Medicare Part D), and we created a vast new government agency (the Department of Homeland Security). …Nearly every problem with spending and debt associated with the Bush years was made far worse under Obama. The man campaigned as an outsider who was going to change course before we went over a fiscal cliff. Instead, when he got behind the wheel, as it were, he hit the gas instead of the brakes — and yet has the temerity to claim that all of the forward momentum is Bush’s fault. …Romney is under no obligation to defend the Republican performance during the Bush years. Indeed, if he’s serious about fixing what’s wrong with Washington, he has an obligation not to defend it. This is an argument that the Tea Party — which famously dealt Obama’s party a shellacking in 2010 — and independents alike are entirely open to. Voters don’t want a president to rein in runaway Democratic spending; they want one to rein in runaway Washington spending.
Jonah’s point about “fixing what’s wrong with Washington” is not a throwaway line. Romney has pledged to voters that he won’t raise taxes. He also has promised to bring the burden of federal spending down to 20 percent of GDP by the end of a first term.
But even those modest commitments will be difficult to achieve if he isn’t willing to gain credibility with the American people by admitting that Republicans helped create the fiscal mess in Washington. Especially since today’s GOP leaders in the House and Senate were all in office last decade and voted for Bush’s wasteful spending.
It actually doesn’t even take much to move fiscal policy in the right direction. All that’s required is to restrain spending so that is grows more slowly than the private sector (with the kind of humility you only find in Washington, I call this “Mitchell’s Golden Rule“). The entitlement reforms in the Ryan budget would be a good start, along with some much-needed pruning of discretionary spending.
And if you address the underlying problem by limiting spending growth to about 2 percent annually, you can balance the budget in about 10 years. No need for higher taxes, notwithstanding the rhetoric of the fiscal frauds in Washington who salivate at the thought of another failed 1990s-style tax hike deal.