Paul Jacob

Gravediggers have a maxim that every politician should ponder: Never dig a hole deeper than you can climb out of.

Since politicians are usually pretty keen on their own interests, if not the interests of their country, you'd think that this maxim would be redundant, not necessary in the slightest.

But, given current trends in Republican-controlled Washington, you'd be wrong.

The Republicans are digging themselves in deep, and burying the country with them. How? By abandoning their stated beliefs in small government and fiscal responsibility. Or, to get back to my metaphor, they are up to their neck in debt, and yet they keep digging.

A Sorry Record

The big political news focuses on other matters right now: war and the upcoming presidential election. Despite the polls, which show George Bush vulnerable, most Republicans seem pretty confident--many even revel at the prospect of Bush trouncing John Kerry next November. After all, Kerry, a rather wooden, aristocratic Northeastern liberal, and the favorite of Ted Kennedy, doesn't look all that impressive in the heartland and in the South. So to lots of Republicans, another four years of Bush seems almost inevitable.

But Republicans have something much bigger to worry about. Themselves.

Kerry may or may not be as big a spender as he (or any other Democratic candidate) will be portrayed. But the unfortunate truth is, George W. Bush is a Big Spender, too. The biggest--ever--by the numbers. With the gracious assistance of the Republican Congress, of course.

Now, you will remember that the Republicans blamed the Democratic majorities in Congress for the massive deficits of the Reagan-Bush years. But then along came a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, and then a Republican-controlled Congress, and--voila!--for the first time in decades the American government showed some fiscal restraint. Well, actually government spending continued to grow at an alarming pace, but slower than GNP--so at last we could marvel at something like balanced budgets.

The Republicans then promised a conservative Nirvana were they to regain the Executive Branch. A newer, younger Bush campaigned as a man who understood that government couldn't do everything for everyone and that regular citizens could usually do better than government with the money in their pockets. George W. Bush entered the Oval Office and...all restraint went out the window.

This can be seen by the rise in the sheer size of the budget: $2.3 trillion, up 23.8 percent from Clinton's final budget year. No restraint there.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.