Is President George W. Bush the most spendthrift president in recent memory, if not all time? It sure seems that way. Discretionary federal spending has increased more rapidly under President George W. Bush than any other post-WWII president.
Take almost any yardstick and Bush generally exceeds the spending of his predecessors.Of course defense and homeland security account for a decent share of the increase, but spending rose elsewhere as well. And while Bush did seek some entitlement reform, he also pushed a new entitlement in the form of the prescription drug bill.
When adjusted for inflation, discretionary spending — or budget items that Congress and the president can control, including defense and domestic programs, but not entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare — shot up at an average annual rate of 5.3 percent during Bush's first six years, [the Cato Institute's Steven] Slivinski calculates.
That tops the 4.6 percent annual rate Johnson logged during his 1963-69 presidency. By these standards, Ronald Reagan was a tightwad; discretionary spending grew by only 1.9 percent a year on his watch.
Discretionary spending went up in Bush's first term by 48.5 percent, not adjusted for inflation, more than twice as much as Bill Clinton did (21.6 percent) in two full terms, Slivinski reports.
The President's defenders point to Congress' voracious appetite as the cause of the spending increase, but Congress could not spend this much alone. President Bush enabled Congress' fiscal excesses by refusing to veto ever-increasing spending bills — many of which were passed by a Republican Congress — while the administration simultaneously pushed for more federal spending on education, agriculture, and other items. Even if Bush gets veto-happy in his last 15 months in office, he'll still be remembered as a big-spending President — and rightly so.