Latte Nation

Hey, Big Spenders

Given that President Kerry would want to spend even more than President Bush, what’s a small government voter to do?

By 10.22.04

Send to Kindle

Small government conservatives and Republican leaning libertarians face a difficult choice going into the polls this year. President Bush and Vice President Cheney occasionally pay lip service to restraining government growth, but they don't mean it.

When Bush came to power, the federal government spent just shy of $1.8 trillion a year, and that was considered extravagant by many. The proposed budget for next year is $2.4 trillion, and that figure understates the total because supplemental legislation will be submitted to cover the bill for Iraq. This year Uncle Sam will spend over $500 billion more than he takes in in revenues. The nation's total national debt, as of October 21, was $7.4 trillion and change.

The website for the U.S. National Debt clock reminds us that debt has been piling up at what should be a worrying pace: $1.7 billion per day since the end of last September. As the late senator Everett Dirksen once morbidly quipped, "A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money."

Part of the Bush binge is due to something the president couldn't have foreseen: that Islamic terrorists would bomb D.C. and New York, inaugurating the war on terrorism abroad and homeland security at home. But spending on domestic programs has continued unchecked. Bush has yet to veto a single bill, and his party, once home to deficit hawks and budget slashers, has learned to stop worrying and love entitlements and pork barrel spending.

The Republicans' approach to highway spending, to borrow the formula of another piece of legislation that the president is so proud of, would appear to be, Leave no inch unpaved. Also, at Bush's urging, Congress passed a massive bill to subsidize the drug purchases of our senior citizens -- the richest group of retirees the world has ever known. Republicans have traded thrift and prudence for bread and circuses.

The horrible problem that small government-minded voters face is that Senator John Kerry would be worse -- possibly much worse. His party's response to Bush's budget proposal for next year was to complain that, with the exception of military funding, spending isn't increasing enough. Let me recast that for emphasis: Democrats want to spend more money.

As president, the Massachusetts senator wouldn't have the stomach for spending cuts or entitlement reforms, and his proposals for education and health care would be pricey. At best, a Kerry administration would oversee targeted tax increases to pare back the deficit and pay for more social spending. More likely, we'd have a whopping tax increase.

At first glance, the choice is between a candidate who would spend a lot more money, chip away at taxes, and at least whisper the right sweet nothings about Social Security reform and a candidate who would spend a whole lot more, raise taxes, and let some other president deal with the problem when Baby Boomers start to retire. Given those options, a lot of otherwise disaffected conservatives will grab a clothespin and pull the lever for Bush.

That's not a hard vote to understand. If I had to cast the deciding ballot between the two, I'd go for Bush. The lesser of two evils is, well, less evil. But I live in Washington state, which will not cast its votes in the electoral college for the president unless Kerry's campaign implodes. A vote for Bush here is wasted; it amounts to cheerleading for an administration that could use a stern talking to.

No thanks. I'm voting Libertarian for president this year, and I encourage all small government conservatives in solidly Kerry states to do the same. The logic behind this tactical voting is simple: If your vote won't count toward Bush's victory anyway, why not vote for a party -- even a fringe party -- that advocates a much smaller government? It would be our own small way of standing up to be counted at a time when so many of our elected leaders have decided to sit this one out.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author
Jeremy Lott is an editor of rare.us.