Guess who's Mr. Big Spender

Edwin Feulner

April 12, 1991|By Edwin Feulner

NOW FOR THE "Final Jeopardy" answer: This U.S. president has increased domestic spending faster than any other since World War II.

Question: Who is Lyndon Johnson?

Wrong: Although Johnson's famous "Great Society" programs dramatically increased the size and power of the federal government, domestic spending during his tenure grew, on average, a "mere" $17 billion per year.

Who is Jimmy Carter?

Wrong again: In constant dollars, Carter boosted domestic spending at a rate of $20 billion a year -- not enough to qualify him for top honors either.

The correct response: Who is George Bush?

Despite all the "spending under control" baloney that's so popular in Washington, Bush's fiscal 1992 budget will pump an additional $29 billion per year into domestic programs -- threatening to make him the biggest spending president in a generation. Forget inflation; the Johnson, Carter and Bush numbers all have been adjusted for inflation.

According to federal budget expert Scott Hodge, who conducted a painstaking study of the administration's eight-pound, 2,200-page budget book, if Bush maintains his present course, he will handily outspend Richard Nixon, who presided over one of America's greatest spending binges in the early 1970s, and double the domestic spending increases of John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter. More telling: The rate at which domestic spending is increasing under Bush is more than five times greater than that of his predecessor and supposed mentor, Ronald Reagan.

Under the Bush administration's plan, the federal government in 1992 will spend a record $1.45 trillion. Rather than the publicly advertised 2.6 percent rate of increase, Hodge found that domestic spending will increase by 8.2 percent, more than three times as much.

Of course, the president's budget is really only a starting point. Congress is sure to tack on billions in pork-barrel spending: a water project here, a parking garage there, and -- of course -- innumerable federally funded "studies" of such things as the sex life of goldfish.

Last year, the big spenders managed to increase the deficit to record levels. They then orchestrated the public's fear of a record deficit into a whopping tax increase -- the largest one-year tax increase in U.S. history.

But the problem has never been declining revenues. Federal tax receipts now total $1.1 trillion a year, more than double the level of 1980. The problem is spending: Under the proposed budget, total federal expenditures will increase nearly $2 for every new tax dollar raised.

There is a solution to Washington's runaway spending spree: Impose a 4 percent cap on increases in domestic spending. This "Four Percent Solution," first proposed last fall, would allow Washington to increase total domestic spending by a modest amount over the previous year's levels. But by taking this prudent and reasonable step, the federal budget could be balanced by fiscal 1995, and would show a surplus the following year.

Edwin Feulner is president of the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based public policy research institute.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.