Thursday, October 28, 2004

Future government growth

I'd really like to think that if Kerry wins, then the Republican House will decide it's time to hold down spending again, thus making lemons into lemonade. However, I think the odds are against it. As Ramesh Ponnuru argues,
The dumb case against Bush regards him as having betrayed the historic Republican commitment to keep spending down from year to year. This history stretches all the way back to January 1995, and all the way forward until the fall of 1996. But the dumb case against Bush doesn't pause to acknowledge that Reagan increased spending, too, especially in a first term of recession and defense build-up, or that the Gingrich Congress cut a big-spending budget deal with Clinton in 1997. The case, in its dumbest form, assumes that anti-spenders can, by denying Bush reelection, cause Republicans to return to the true path. Maybe this would even make sense — if it were not the case that much of the country likes increased federal spending just fine, and far more people like than dislike increased spending for any given program. That's why spending has gone up, after all, and not just under this president.
It really comes down to the fact that there aren't enough congressmen who want a small federal government. Thus, those of us who believe in federalism and/or small government in general have a bigger problem than just our poor options in the presidential election. (Which is why I'm a member of the Club for Growth. Yeah, I couldn't resist making a plug.) Perhaps Republicans in congress, out of a desire to hurt Kerry politically, will stymie everything he does regarding the budget, resulting in lower spending. But I think it more likely that they'll compromise, like they did in Clinton's second term, afraid to repeat, say, the government shutdown of 1995. I don't expect the rate of change of federal spending to depend much on whether Bush or Kerry wins the election. Alas, I just expect the rate to be positive.

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