Jacob Sullum

Much of the new spending went to defense and homeland security, and anyone who considers the war in Iraq a mistake or looks at the details of how anti-terrorism money is spent would have to agree that a lot of it was wasted. Bush's "compassionate conservative" vision also featured higher outlays in other areas, including education spending, which has risen 18 percent a year since 2001.

The most conspicuous example of Bush's profligacy is the Medicare prescription drug benefit he championed and still cites with pride. Indeed, the worst thing about earmarks, which represent less than 1 percent of total federal spending, may be the way they're used in the logrolling that wins passage of budget-busting monstrosities like this one.

During its first decade, the drug benefit is expected to cost about $70 billion a year, four times all of this year's earmarks put together. Over the long term, it accounts for almost a quarter of Medicare's estimated $34 trillion shortfall.

In a statement issued before the State of the Union speech, the White House worried about "the unsustainable growth in spending for Medicare" and "Medicare's long-term unfunded liability." Given the president's record of fiscal recklessness, that's about as believable as a statement from Cookie Monster condemning gluttony.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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