Will Republicans ever snap out of their collective delusion that Bill Clinton is serious about cutting the budget? The greatest political non‐surprise of the year so far was the Congressional Budget Office’s announcement that President Clinton’s budget does not balance the budget in 2002, 2005, or ever. Even with all of the gimmickry in the Clinton budget — such as counting the premiums from expanding risky Federal Housing Administration mortgage guarantees as new revenues — the White House fiscal plan would still leave a deficit of more than $100 billion five years from now.
That was entirely predictable. Bill Clinton’s budget plans have always been far more financially reckless than his fiscal tightwad rhetoric. The White House takes full credit for the “enormous progress” in the decline in red ink since 1993’s $500 billion “deficit reduction” package. It turns out that we can roughly calculate how much of the deficit decline is attributable to Clinton and how much to the Republican Congress. Back in April 1995, just before the Republicans released their seven‐year balanced‐budget plan, the CBO announced that Clinton’s deficit reduction plan would produce $211 billion in red ink in 1996.
Instead, the deficit was half that level, or $107 billion. That $104 billion improvement is almost entirely attributable to tighter spending restraints than Clinton wanted.
In fact, over the entire seven‐year period (1996–2002) congressional Republicans will have chopped a shade over $1 trillion ($1,000,000,000,000) of deficit spending from the Clintonomics baseline. This is said not to applaud congressional Republicans — who have quivered at the thought of slaying even the most dimwitted federal spending programs — but to underscore the extent to which Bill Clinton is an obstacle, not an ally, when it comes to ending the era of big government.
|Presidential Budget Requests Compared
with Spending Approved by Congress
|Source: Institute for Policy Innovation, Lewisville, Texas, 1996.|
In a recent study for the Institute for Policy Innovation, Mark Byrd and I compared White House budget requests with the amounts actually spent by Congress under every president from Gerald Ford through Bill Clinton. The accompanying table shows the results, three of which are particularly noteworthy: