In fiscal 2000, federal spending was 18.2 percent of gross domestic product and the federal government ran a surplus. In fiscal 2012, federal spending was 24.3 percent of GDP and the federal government ran a $1-trillion-plus deficit for the fourth year in a row.
It is true that much of the growth in federal spending is driven by entitlements -- including the Medicare prescription drug plan, a new entitlement signed into law by George W. Bush. But, at the same time, Congress and the last two presidents have also driven up discretionary spending.
The National Institutes of Health is a good case study in how both parties have worked to expand that spending. Bush, a Republican, campaigned promising to double the size of NIH as a way of persuading voters in swing states like Florida that he was compassionate and ready to spend other people's money to advance what he perceived to be their interests. Obama, a Democrat, has no intention of reversing the upward spending trajectory Bush endorsed and set for NIH.
Other than through the sequester -- if they now let it go forward -- Republican leaders in Congress have shown no will to turn things around.
They should let the sequester hit NIH and every other government agency. Then they should come back to Washington next Monday ready to demand far deeper cuts in federal spending as they begin exposing all of the ridiculous things the NIH and other federal agencies have been doing with money borrowed from generations of Americans yet unborn.