Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Fiscal Conservative Graph

Because I consider myself a fiscal conservative (I believe government should pay its bills, should not enact programs it has no way of subsidizing, should not operate at a deficit, and should pay off its debt), this chart from the conservative Heritage Foundation pretty much sums up one of the major disappointments I've had with the Bush Administration. When he won the first time, I thought that at least half of my political conscience would be salved and we'd continue the economic and fiscal restraint of the 90's (note how the graph actually declines during that decade). Sadly, that did not come to pass.

(click for a larger version)

You can see the original at the Heritage Foundation's web site. As their site says, the past four years have seen the sharpest growth in spending per household since the Johnson Administration, when the Great Society programs were enacted. Our federal debt has almost doubled to over $8 trillion. That's trillion with a "t". We went from running a budget surplus of several hundred million dollars in 2000 to an annual deficit of several hundred billion dollars each year today. And that figure does not include military spending on Afghanistan or Iraq, as those are accounted for under special spending provisions.

A commenter objected earlier to the term "neo-conservative", but this is why I use that term for the Bush Administration and its policies. Nothing about spending and entitlement programs over the last six years has been classically conservative; some distinction must be made.

I understand the reflexive charge of "tax and spend liberals" but looking at that chart I honestly can't imagine how a liberal/left-wing/baby-eating government could be any worse. I don't have kids of my own, but I feel bad for my nephews and nieces who are going to have to literally pay for our profligate spending -- that's a hell of a legacy to pass on.


Anonymous said...

Alas, dear brother, this has been a nagging, guilty burden that's been around since I was a teen. At the time, it didn't make much sense. As a mom, it was very worrisome. Now as an older mom looking ahead, I see my grandchildren having to shoulder this burden. Thinking that with Social Security, there used to be 10 workers for every 1 person on SS, it was workable. Now, it's almost 1 to 1. Sobering for those of us who don't want to see our grandchildren taking care of us. The Heritage Foundation is a good site -- I added it to my favorites. Thanks and what a hole we've dug for the next few generations. I keep thinking people want to get away from having "Big Brother" take care of everything, but I don't see that happening with these numbers. Sad. Very sad. -- Denise

Jeff Hebert said...

I keep thinking people want to get away from having "Big Brother" take care of everything, but I don't see that happening with these numbers.

I agree, and that's where I have the biggest problem with traditional liberalism (as embodied by the Democratic Party historically). A big government program is NOT the answer to every social ill, as welfare reform proved (and big-time kudoes to Republicans for advocation that and getting Clinton to pursue it). Big business isn't necessarily evil, capitalism isn't the tool of the devil, and everyday people CAN make a positive difference. Of course, sometimes a systematic, government-sponsored approach is the right thing to do, if done well, but it shouldn't necessarily be the default.

I have read arguments that the deficit doesn't matter and debt is meaningless to government, and that's why fiscal conservatives shouldn't worry about these numbes. I don't know enough math or economics to follow the technical stuff, but I know how we run our own financial house. And if I racked up the kind of debt our government does, I'd be in jail. I was raised to believe (and life in the country has reinforced it) that you pay your way as you go. You don't spend what you ain't got. If times get tough, you tighten your belt, you don't go on a spending spree at the J.C. Penny, you know?

Anyway, my feeling is that the modern Republican party has largely turned its back on fiscal conservatives, and that's a huge loss for our country. We need a party who will challenge the reflex of those in charge to expand their power by spend, spend, spending. We need a party who will challenge the reflex to make a bigger agency or program to mend every ill. That used to be the Republicans, but clearly that's not the case any more, and I forone mourn the loss.

Anonymous said...

Agree. But people have this notion that if it's a government deficit and bloated budget, it's some nameless entity out there that will right itself. They seldom see that the government is them! There's an old speech floating around the Internet about Davy Crockett and how one of his farmers told him that government money is the people's money and he needs to be careful with it. I don't see any political party willing to go the distance to trim the budget these days. Used to be the Republicans and then it was the Democrats, as recently as Clinton. But now it's just spend, spend, spend and eventually the chickens come home to roost. What is so very, very sad is those chickens will be roosting on the heads of our grandchildren. There's something to be said for a cash-only government. If we ain't got it, we ain't a gonna spend it!


Geopoet said...

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Jeff Hebert said...

Even if you buy his argument (which I am not bright enough to judge one way or another, as I said), this administration has been spending like a drunken sailor on Dollar Whore Night. Since 2000, when Bush took office, our debt to GDP ratio (which the skeptical optimist claims is the key figure to consider in financial solvency) has risen from 60% to 64%, above SO's threshhold.

But like I said, that's all way more complicated than I can judge. All I know is, if I kept borrowing more and more money with no intention of every paying it back, I'd be in a world of hurt when times got bad. What makes me even madder is how much of our debt is held by China, the only other country with a reasonable shot at hitting "super power" status in the near future. Imagine how curtailed our military and political options will be if we're opposed in the global theater by our largest debt holder.

Captain Friendly said...

I'm sure they'll take care of it once they've solved the problem of the gays. We must have our priorities in these matters, after all.