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February 9, 2004

Bush on the budget

When he interviewed the president on Sunday, Tim Russert spent most of the time asking about Iraq; this part of the interview has also attracted the most attention from pundits. But I was most struck by the following comment: "BUSH: If you look at the appropriations bills that were passed under my watch, in the last year of President Clinton, discretionary spending was up 15 percent, and ours have steadily declined." The Heritage Foundation provides a clear graph of annual changes in discretionary spending, which shows that growth in the discretionary budget never exceeded 2% under Clinton. By my calculation, there was a 10% increase in 2002 and a 14% increase in 2003 . (I'm using this table for those years). You get slightly different results if you measure "discretionary spending" differently, but the basic pattern is clear. Spending inched up under Clinton and soared under Bush. The president is flat wrong. ...

He then says: "And the other thing that I think it's important for people who watch the expenditures side of the equation is to understand we're at war, Tim, and any time you commit your troops into harm's way, they must have the best equipment, the best training and the best possible pay. That's where -- we owe it to their loved ones." But the increase in non-defense discretionary spending was 5% this year, about twice the annual rate in the Clinton years.

Will conservatives make Bush pay a political price for increasing federal domestic spending? The only way they can exact a serious penalty is by staying home in November--and they should do that, since the administration has completely betrayed conservative values. However, I suspect they'll come out for the president. Liberals may attack Bush, but with one hand tied behind their backs, because they don't see discretionary spending as a problem and won't promise to cut it. Thus I predict that the president will still be getting away with false statements about his own budget six months from now.

Posted by peterlevine at 4:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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