Arnold Kling  

Conservatives and the Bush Budget

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David Corn writes,

What I wonder about is the absence of conservative outrage over Bush's budget numbers.

Alex Tabarrok wrote,

My prediction is that it will be easier to add $540 billion in Medicare spending than it will be to cut $5 billion in farm subsidies.

Jane Galt wrote,

Part of the [increase in estimated cost of the prescription drug plan from $400 billion to $720 billion] comes from earlier flim-flammery on the part of the Administration & congress, which projected costs from 2004-2013, even though the benefit didn't start until 2006. The new projections start in 2006. But that move alone can't possibly be enough to account for the projected costs nearly doubling. Hang onto your hat, Hilda; we're in for a bumpy ride.

Even bumpier, if Joseph Antos and Jagadeesh Gokhale are correct.

Veronique de Rugy wrote,

The administration has been arguing that much of the increase in non-defense spending stemmed from higher homeland-security spending. However, the fact is that over half of all new spending in the past two years is from areas unrelated to defense and homeland security...

once again this year, the administration has left out important items from its calculation, such as an additional supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan, which could hit $80 billion. More importantly, the administration's numbers do not include any of the potential transition costs for restructuring Social Security.

Also, at this event, Kent Smetters said,

President Bush would have to eliminate the equivalent of Social Security's financial problems three times over just to take back the extra fiscal burdens he placed on future generations during his first term.

Maybe David Corn should get out more.

For Discussion. Will President Bush go down in history as an economic conservative?

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CATEGORIES: Fiscal Policy

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The author at Catallaxy in a related article titled Conservativ-licious writes:
    Arnold Kling has a quick roundup of some problems in the Bush budget proposal.... [Tracked on February 9, 2005 9:25 PM]
COMMENTS (25 to date)
Lancelot Finn writes:

I couldn't figure out what he was doing with the economy in his first term. Now it looks like he might be headed in the right direction...

p writes:

The Bush Budget is not fiscally conservative ...It is a cash cow. The conservative element of Bush is how he manages the institutions that interact within the economy. It is in this space that he has a possible claim. He must however get the budget reduced to a respectable level to earn the title.

Edge writes:

So far, Bush is emulating Lyndon Johnson more than anyone else.

If he manages to swing a leveraged buyout of Social Security using treasury debt, I don't know if that will just enhance his "biggest Texas spender" profile, or endear him with conservatives. Guess you guys will have to decide.

Huggy writes:

Mentally trade places with the Bush team. "Time is what keeps everything from happening all at once." SS private accounts is a first step in getting out of a socialist trap. President Bush might have lost without the perscription benefit.

Randy writes:

Bush was wise to do the tax cuts first. The only way to stop the government from spending is to take they money away.

Boonton writes:
Bush was wise to do the tax cuts first. The only way to stop the government from spending is to take they money away.

Yea continue to believe this Randy.

spencer writes:

If the goal of conservative policy is to bankrupt the govt -- a goal many would agree with -- he will clearly go down as a conservative president.

But who knows what the consequences will be?

Bernard Yomtov writes:

Tell us what an "economic conservative" is these days.

Huge deficits? Wildly dishonest projections of costs? Budgets that omit major expense items? Tax cuts as the solution to all economic problems?

If that's it then yes. Otherewise no.

Boonton writes:

Let's be honest here, Bush has no true ideology as it comes to economics other than making a mess whose cost will fall due after he is out of office. He's more like Lyndon Johnson but with Richard Nixon's ethics...but much much worse. Take a peek at this piece on how the administration is refusing to start issuing 30 year bonds. Even fiscal competance is beyond this admi.

p writes:


I wish the world were so simple ... While Bush must accept some of the responsibility for the economic "mess" ... he shares it with the last several presidents and the congress. The drug plan is his own contribution to this mess ...

The reality is that it is the American people who buy imports. Bush is doing his best to boost exports .... he has exported a load of 500 pounds bombs to the middle east. He even added smart components to boost hitech exports. With that being said he is no match for 280M debt laden Americans buying cars, electronics, and other junck from abroad at reckless speed.

Edge writes:


The least he could have done was sold those hi-tech military exports to someone else, or arranged a situation like the first Gulf War, where we did the work and got paid for it.

As it is, I don't think it's helping the balance sheet, either financially, or politically.

spencer writes:

Boonton-- I take it you have a problem with Americans buying foreign products. Why?

Is the better program having the govt ban imports?

Boonton writes:
I wish the world were so simple ... While Bush must accept some of the responsibility for the economic "mess" ... he shares it with the last several presidents and the congress. The drug plan is his own contribution to this mess ...

P, the President has had a united Congress behind him who embraced his tax cuts, his entitlement expansions, his return of farm subsidies and his phony budget numbers. He also has a collection of supporters who will tell you the up is down and down is up if it fits his policies.


I think you confused the confused post that p wrote in response to me with me myself :) American's buying imported goods is not the problem.

Randy writes:


Yea continue to believe this Randy.

I know for a fact that taking away the money does work. I was a Supply Sergeant in the USAF. During the 90's there were significant budget cuts. What happens is, they simply take away the money and manpower with no change in the operational requirements. The mid and lower level people who actually do the job, cannot accomplish everything required by regulation, so they simply stop doing whatever they can get away with not doing. You see, if you don't get yelled at when you don't do it, then it wasn't important in the first place. Trust me on this, the government spends a whole lot of money on things that aren't worth doing. My particular unit had a 30% cut in money and manpower - and we survived just fine.

Boonton writes:


I believe everything you wrote...yet it has nothing to do with what I wrote. You claimed that Bush is some type of wise leader who knows the gov't will stop spending if the money is taken away.

Randy! Look at the numbers! Spending is thru the roof! Wake UP!!!!! Tax revenue does not drive gov't spending, if it did the Clinton years would look like the Bush years!

Randy writes:


Spending is through the roof, no doubt about it. But I do believe the only way to get them to stop spending is to stop sending them money. The government's ability to borrow is based on the lender's belief in the government's ability to tax. Making the tax cuts permanent will send a strong signal to all involved that the party is over. We have to get some discipline. And we have to start somewhere. We start with the low hanging fruit - tax cuts.

Randy writes:


P.S., If the Democrats become the party that focuses on cutting spending, cutting taxes, and reducing the debt, I'll vote Democrat every time. But at this point, I trust the Republicans to do this more than the Democrats. Which is not to say I trust either any farther than I could throw them. But maybe you could have a talk with Dean.


The solution to the Social Security and Medicare problems are right in front of you! Cut the payroll tax and the medicare tax. Tax cuts are the solution! We will grow out of this.

Edge writes:

Randy, spending as a fraction of GDP fell by about 3% between FY 1993 and FY 2001.

Since then, it's back up over a point.

The GOP seems to be addicted to spending borrowed money. Perhaps with a wink and a nod, telling you it will force future cuts.

Barry P. writes:


Bushco is claiming that the tax cuts have led to revenue increases (i.e., they believe that we were on the far side of the Laffer curve).

If it is true, how does it jive with "starving the government"? By giving it more money?

Furthermore, running a deficit today is simply a deferred tax hike. Bush's tax cut is a bit like choosing to not make a mortgage payment for 2 or 3 months. Might seem good in the sjort term, but the accrued extra interest more than makes up for the "gain."

Dezakin writes:

Perhaps its the beginning of a shift of the socialists to the republican party and the libertarians to the democrat party. Then liberals can call themselves liberals in both the old small government sense of the word and the modern pejorative that the republicans are so fond of.

Randy is delusional if he buys into the Grover Norquist 'starve the beast' strategy; Its been pumped for decades with nothing to show for it except enourmous government debt. I suppose eventually it could lead to reduced spending... after a third-world style currency meltdown of dollar flight.

The Democrats may be the champions of the mommy state, but the Republicans are the champions of the daddy state, ever marching towards neo-fascism with ever more expansive spending programs and pork, and now very orwellian laws:

Section 102 of the Real ID act passed by the house and likely to be shoved into a large appropriations bill in the Senate has a provision that grants the director of homeland security to waive any law at his discretion and is immune from judicial review:

Text from the “REAL ID Act”
Sec. 102. Waiver of Laws Necessary for Improvement of Barriers at Borders.

Section 102(c) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 … is amended to read as follows:

“(c) Waiver. —

“(1) In general. — Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to waive, and shall waive, all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary’s sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section.

“(2) No judicial review. — Notwithstanding any other provision of law (statutory or nonstatutory), no court shall have jurisdiction —

“(A) to hear any cause or claim arising from any action undertaken, or any decision made, by the Secretary of Homeland Security pursuant to paragraph (1); or

“(B) to order compensatory, declaratory, injunctive, equitable, or any other relief for damage alleged to arise from any such action or decision.”

Randy writes:

I am well aware that both parties are running up a huge debt. I don't think a true starve the beast strategy has ever been tried. The American people want higher spending and lower taxes, and that is exactly what they are getting. There is no significant number of voices calling for a significantly reduced government. Never has been and never will be. No political candidate can run for office really meaning to downsize the government and hope to win - and if he did win, he would be ignored in the Congress. I take statements about "the Republicans did this" and "the Democrats did that" for what they are, political posturing.

A pox on both your houses.

Lawrance George Lux writes:

The question to answer is whether George W. will be considered a Conservative President. The answer is No. Strip the Names from the separate series of Budgets, and Clinton would be declared a Saint, while Conservative would argue whether to bury Bush alive, or crucify on the Cross. lgl

El Presidente writes:

No. I think he's trying to leverage our foreign debt by matching it with nationalized debt through the social security BS. In other words, he wants to devalue the dollar to the point that it becomes cheap to repurchase our debt. Sound like fun to anyone els? Its certainly NOT conservative. It doesn't matter how much you spend if you're gonna run the ship to ground.

Kevin writes:

The solution to social security and paying off the debt is: Get more of the bottom people working in this country and pay them enought to have disposable income. Increasing the social security ceiling is a hidden tax increase and just wrong.

By the way. American cars suck. Stop importing all this crap from China that we don't need and turn some LIGHTS off for christ sakes. This country is lit up like a holiday tree. Close some of these convenience stores. We have too many refrigerators running around the clock.

Oh, and if you don't like socialism, stop rooting for the New England Patriots. You are going to see the NFL rename some of its teams the 'Trotskys' and the 'Lenins' at some point if this trend catches on.

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