Jonah Goldberg

Under Bush, spending on education has gone up 60.8 percent, on labor 56 percent and on the Department of the Interior by 23.4 percent . The price tag for the president's Medicare plan alone starts, but won't end, at $400 billion. The farm bill was a pork horror show, pure and simple. More people work for the federal government now than at any time since the end of the Cold War.

Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation sums it up this way: "Overall for 2003, the federal government spent $20,300 per household, taxed $16,780 per household, and ran a budget deficit of $3,520 per household."

The reason most Americans haven't heard a lot about all this is twofold. Conservatives have stayed relatively quiet and liberals have controlled the anti-Bush microphone.

Democratic presidential candidates and interest groups have been screeching that the president is gutting education and abandoning the elderly. Obviously this is nonsense on tall stilts, since Bush is spending a lot more on both than Bill Clinton ever did.

In fact, on Medicare and education, for example, the Dems think Bush is being stingy. And a study by the National Taxpayers Union found that each and every one of the Democrats running for president have plans that would raise the deficit even more, from $169.6 billion under Joe Lieberman to - get this - $1.33 trillion under Al Sharpton.

Conservative opposition to such overspending is more complex than the media and the left think. Some just don't like red ink. Others think big government erodes freedom and traditional arrangements. Others believe it slowly inoculates the citizenry to greater levels of social engineering.

Whatever the reasons, conservatives - as opposed to partisan Republicans - have sincere misgivings about the kind of presidency Bush is conducting. A lot of compassionate conservatism is smart politics for the Republican Party, and some of it is even good policy. And, yes, conservatives understand that the GOP is practically the only place they have a real impact in electoral politics.

But I'm not sure George Bush understands how much he is asking from those who brought him to the dance.

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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