The Spectacle Blog

Final Returns for Bush the Big Spender

By on 12.31.09 | 1:53PM

Barack Obama will be the biggest spender ever.  But it's been hard for the Republican Party to criticize him, since the GOP spent most of the last decade borrowing money wildly to throw a big government party.  My Cato Institute colleague Chris Edwards looks at the final CBO numbers:

The Congressional Budget Office has released final budget numbers for fiscal year 2009. The numbers allow us to take a last look at the Bush administration's record on spending from a statistical point of view.

The following three charts show annual average real (or constant dollar) outlays during the tenures of recent presidents. Presidents were in office for either 4 or 8 budget years, except JFK (3 years), LBJ (5 years), Nixon (6 years), and Ford (2 years).

President George W. Bush's last year was fiscal 2009. Outlays that year were $3.522 trillion, according to the CBO. However, $108 billion was spending for the 2009 economic stimulus package passed under President Obama. Bush was thus roughly responsible for $3.414 trillion of spending in 2009, which includes outlays for the financial bailouts enacted under his watch. (For FY2009, $154 billion for TARP and $91 billion for Fannie and Freddie).

Spending in Bush's first year (FY2001) was $1.863 trillion, thus he presided over an 83-percent increase in overall federal spending, which includes defense, domestic, entitlements, and interest. Even without TARP and Fannie/Freddie, spending was up a huge 70 percent under Bush over eight years. By contrast, total spending under eight years of President Clinton increased just 32 percent. These are the overall increases in nominal dollars.

Now let's look at the real annual averages. Figure 1 shows the average increase in total spending under recent presidents. Bush II was the biggest spender since LBJ. His spending increases were far larger than the three prior presidents.

It doesn't matter how you slice it--with or without military outlays, interest, etc.  President George W. Bush and the Republican congressional majority looked and acted like Democrats.  If the GOP is to stage a comeback, Republicans must be held accountable for past misbehavior and made to understand that their political survival depends on behaving differently this time.  The last thing we will need after the Obama years is another period of rule by big government Republicans.

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