George Bush is the biggest-spending president of the past 40 years, surpassing even Lyndon Johnson and his "Great Society" spending spree, a new report by the Cato Institute reveals.
The increase in discretionary spending – that is, all nonentitlement programs – in Bush’s first term was 48.5 percent. That’s higher than LBJ’s 48.3 percent, and more than twice as large as the increase during Bill Clinton’s entire two terms, 21.6 percent.
When spending is adjusted for inflation and length of time in office, Bush has an annualized real growth in spending of 8 percent, compared to Johnson’s 4.6 percent. In contrast, Ronald Reagan’s real growth was just 1.9 percent.
"In other words, Bush has expanded federal nonentitlement programs in his first term almost twice as fast each year as Lyndon Johnson did during his entire presidency," the Cato Institute’s report discloses.
Reagan’s discretionary spending rise was mainly a result of increased outlays for defense, but he offset that spending with cuts in other areas. By the end of his two terms, nondefense discretionary spending was actually down 9.5 percent.
But Bush’s tenure "has so far been a return to the Johnson and Carter philosophy of budgeting that gives increases to all categories of spending," according to the Cato report.
"George W. Bush is the biggest spending president of the past 40 years in both the defense and domestic discretionary spending categories by a long shot."
Members of the Bush administration say much of the spending growth is due to outlays for the war on terrorism. But Cato found that this expense amounts to only 16 percent of defense spending for the past four fiscal years and therefore "cannot explain most of the Bush budget bloat."