Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What has compassionate conservatism given the nation?

Hell, I know a lot of people are sitting back right now and scratching their heads. I mean, after all, that title lobs a bomb of it's own and we all know the directions it's going. So let me just say, before you read further, that this post isn't throwing the president under the bus. In fact, we still do support the president on a number of things, but it can't be argued that "compassionate conservatism" was good for America. And to prove this, I'll refer to the piece in today's McClatchy paper where his spending numbers are compared to the likes of LBJ:

George W. Bush, despite all his recent bravado about being an apostle of small government and budget-slashing, is the biggest spending president since Lyndon B. Johnson. In fact, he's arguably an even bigger spender than LBJ.

“He’s a big government guy,” said Stephen Slivinski, the director of budget studies at Cato Institute, a libertarian research group.

The numbers are clear, credible and conclusive, added David Keating, the executive director of the Club for Growth, a budget-watchdog group.

“He’s a big spender,” Keating said. “No question about it.”

Take almost any yardstick and Bush generally exceeds the spending of his predecessors.

When adjusted for inflation, discretionary spending — or budget items that Congress and the president can control, including defense and domestic programs, but not entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare — shot up at an average annual rate of 5.3 percent during Bush’s first six years, Slivinski calculates.

That tops the 4.6 percent annual rate Johnson logged during his 1963-69 presidency. By these standards, Ronald Reagan was a tightwad; discretionary spending grew by only 1.9 percent a year on his watch.

Discretionary spending went up in Bush's first term by 48.5 percent, not adjusted for inflation, more than twice as much as Bill Clinton did (21.6 percent) in two full terms, Slivinski reports.

Defense spending is the big driver — but hardly the only one.

Under Bush it's grown on average by 5.7 percent a year. Under LBJ — who had a war to fund, too — it rose by 4.9 percent a year. Both numbers are adjusted for inflation.

Including costs for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense spending under Bush has gone up 86 percent since 2001, according to Chris Hellman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

Current annual defense spending — not counting war costs — is 25 percent above the height of the Reagan-era buildup, Hellman said.

Homeland security spending also has soared, to about $31 billion last year, triple the pre-9/11 number.

But Bush's super-spending is about far more than defense and homeland security.

Brian Riedl, a budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group, points to education spending. Adjusted for inflation, it's up 18 percent annually since 2001, thanks largely to Bush’s No Child Left Behind act.

The 2002 farm bill, he said, caused agriculture spending to double its 1990s levels.

Then there was the 2003 Medicare prescription drug benefit — the biggest single expansion in the program’s history — whose 10-year costs are estimated at more than $700 billion.

And the 2005 highway bill, which included thousands of “earmarks,” or special local projects stuck into the legislation by individual lawmakers without review, cost $295 billion.

“He has presided over massive increases in almost every category … a dramatic change of pace from most previous presidents,” said Slivinski.

While he holds certain conservative principles close to his heart, such as national security, the sanctity of life, and getting federal judges right (minus the Harriet Miers snafu) the rest of the principles seem to have been placed in a broom closet somewhere in the White House, and forgotten about. Or, maybe they were never there. I don't know. Marcie scratches her head over what has happened to him.

I posit the notion that nothing happened to him. In 2000 we were looking at a choice before us between Al Gore and George Bush. Given Gore's predilections for the inane and insane, the choice was clear. In 2004 we were looking at an incumbent president, or a laughable, haughty, prima donna in John Kerry. Again the choice was clear. Both times we knew what George W. Bush was about. We knew that we already had a couple gripes about him by 2004 -- those listed above aside -- but we were confronted with the age old choice that we have dealt with for years. Who is the lesser of two evils?

With Gore on his Kooky Klimate Krusade, we know damn good and well that our taxes would have gone right through the roof. At least the president understood that the best way to dig us out of the Clinton recession and out of the tailspin the economy lurched into in the aftermath of 11 September was to issue tax cuts to the nation. That brought the economy back on track, bolstered consumer confidence, and it's been setting records ever since. Additionally, the unemployment rate in America hasn't seen levels this low since the middle of the Clinton years.

With John Kerry, the choice wasn't so much about dollars and spending as much as it was about national security. "The man from 'Nam" had talked repeatedly about pulling our troops out of Iraq, possibly Afghanistan, and trying a new Murtha-esque strategy of redeploying over the river and through the woods. (Problem is that grandma was safe from Islamofascists; she speaks softly, and carries an armory in the basement next to her jars of preserves.) John Kerry was the George McGovern of 2004, minus the 70's clothing and bad haircuts; exchanged for fine suits and an orange tan.

But did we know what we were getting when we elected Bush? If you say no, then you weren't paying attention. Anytime he was confronted with the question about his conservatism, he reminded people he was a "compassionate conservative." Folks, that's code for "I'm a moderate" or "I'm a big government conservative." I knew it then, and I knew it in 2004. (For the record, Marcie participated in her first election in 2004, and she still knew that he was a big government type.)

So what has compassionate conservatism given the nation? A big spender in Washington that didn't locate his veto pen until 2006. A man who tried to ram an amnesty bill down the taxpayer's throats. A man who has helped spend our money as badly as Congress has. And, a man who keeps trying to play nice with the crocodiles in the swamp known as Congress, and no matter how many times he gets bit, he keeps going back to them. (I know, he rises above the rhetoric, but still when you have idiots like Pete Stark, like John Murtha, like Harry Reid, and like Nancy Pelosi, you ought to be firing back once in a while.)

Don't get me wrong. In in no way, shape, or form do we regret our voting for President Bush. On the contrary, we accept it and will gladly admit it, but we also know we can't lay all the blame at the president's feet. Congress is his check, and they should have been doing their job. But on the flip side, the p[resident should have been taking care of the people's money and their best interests better than he has.

Publius II


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