Thursday, February 12, 2004

I've heard/read from a more than a few people the suggestion that the best way to restore fiscal discipline in Washington is to restore divided government. They fondly recall the Gingrich years in which Clinton was forced to hold down spending. They believe that, if a Democrat is in the White House in 2005, then the Republican Congress will rediscover the joys of obstruction. I contend this is false a hope.

What these optimists are forgetting is what happened after Gingrich stepped down. The Republicans didn't dare shutdown the government again; hence, Clinton had the upper hand in budget battles. Federal spending increased at an accelerating rate, reaching ridiculous levels in Clinton's last year. What has happened since Bush has taken office is just a continuation of this trend. This doesn't absolve Bush of his abject failure to stop this trend, but it does show the folly of expecting a Democrat president to somehow turn the Republican congress back into the conservative majority it was in the mid-90s. Today both houses of congress have thinner Republican majorities than then. Worse, today neither house has a conservative majority. I strongly expect a Democrat president would be appeased on spending matters in a manner similar to the appeasement in Clinton's second term.

The way to bring back fiscal sanity is to elect actual conservatives. At the presidential level, the next opportunity for this is the 2008 Republican primary. At the congressional level, we can vote in this year's primaries as well as complain to our sitting representatives. Whatever you think of Bush's economic policy, remember that the Democrats are worse.

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