Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute crunches a few numbers to estimate what would have happened to government spending if George Bush had simply maintained Bill Clinton’s non-defense budget. The sad answer is that the federal government would be about $400 billion smaller. The implications, particularly for tax policy, are staggering:
Bush has outspent Clinton by a mile. …If we now had the lower spending levels that Bush inherited, we could extend his tax cuts, repeal the alternative minimum tax, enact the current stimulus package, and still have a 10-year budget surplus of $1.9 trillion. And, remember, that allows spending to be adjusted up for the Iraq war and the war against terrorists. …It makes you sick to think about it. All that money wasted on ethanol and bridges to nowhere has accumulated into a pile that massive. Uncle Sam ate a whopping helping of apple pie every day for seven years, and now he is obese. This is important to bear in mind as we move forward to the general election. We don’t have a deficit because of Iraq, or the tax cuts, or the drug benefit. We have a deficit because the government grew fat. We can’t fix that with tax increases. Uncle Sam must go on a diet.