E. J. Dionne writes in the Washington Post today that many Republicans think the George W. Bush administration was “too ready to run up the deficit.” But, he says,
That the deficit increased primarily because of two tax cuts and two wars was not part of most conservatives’ calculation because acknowledging this was ideologically inconvenient.
That’s one explanation. Of course, spending did rise by more than a trillion dollars during Bush’s eight years, and it wasn’t all military spending.
And as Michael Tanner writes today, “The Deficit Is a Symptom, Spending Is the Disease.”
Traditionally, federal spending has run around 21 percent of GDP. But George W. Bush and (even more dramatically) Barack Obama have now driven federal spending to more than 25 percent of GDP. And as the old joke goes, that’s the good news. As the full force of entitlement programs kicks in, the federal government will consume more than 40 percent of GDP by the middle of the century.
The real objection of libertarians and many conservatives to Bush is the massive increase in federal spending. As Tanner says, the deficit is just the symptom of an out-of-control, overspending federal government.