Jonah Goldberg

George Bush is a big-government conservative. You don't hear this very often because big-government liberals do most of the reporting on budget and economics stuff and, well, they like government spending. Conceding that a Republican president is spending money like Uday Hussein on a Paris shopping trip would seem like a compliment to these people.

Meanwhile, conservatives are loathe to criticize a popular and good president during a time of national emergency. So, the only time Bush's spending binges really come up for criticism are when liberals want to criticize Bush's alleged "hypocrisy" for spending money like a Democrat or to criticize Bush for cutting taxes.

The case that Bush is a big spender is irrefutable. Federal spending on Bush's watch has sky-rocketed. According to the Heritage Foundation, the years 2000 to 2003 marked the biggest spending spree in the history of the United States, except for WWII. Total spending has gone up nearly 14 percent in Bush's first three years, and discretionary spending has gone up nearly 20 percent.

Bush spent a pile not only on guns, but on butter. Non-defense spending has gone up by almost the same amount as defense spending, and defense spending constitutes barely a fifth of the total increase in spending from 2000 to 2003.

What are we spending it on? Well, President Bush (contact) joined up with Senator Edward Kennedy for the biggest expansion of federal spending on education in decades. He agreed to a farm bill that had more pork in it than an all-you-can-eat North Carolina Super Bowl Buffet.

In fact, Bush has an annoying habit of opposing proposals on the grounds they're bad policy or too expensive only to end up supporting them when the pressure gets too intense.

He opposed federalizing airport security workers and then agreed to do it anyway. He resisted extending unemployment benefits and then reversed course.

He was against a prescription drug benefit under Medicare and now he favors one. He came out against a big new Cabinet agency to direct homeland security and then proposed his own huge new Cabinet agency to direct homeland security.

Most recently, when the Congress passed a huge tax cut, people who don't pay income taxes were "left behind," according to Democrats and The New York Times.

So, even though the Democrats originally opposed any tax cut at all, they insisted that $10 billion in new "tax cuts" go to these low-income families.

When the bill passed the Senate, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer was asked what the president thought the House should do. He declared: "Pass it!"


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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