Saturday, March 19, 2011

Levin's Superb Comparison of Reagan and George W. Bush

Mark Levin responds to Peter Wehner in a long, superb piece comparing Reagan's conservatism with George W. Bush's in terms of illegal immigration, the Supreme Court, taxes, spending, entitlements, terrorism, social issues, constitutional issues and Israel. Well worth the read. An example is the section on spending:
"Spending. Pete writes: 'President Reagan gets the nod over Bush on federal spending, especially in his first year, when Reagan made a real run at cutting domestic spending. Still, under Reagan, spending increased by around one-quarter in real terms. Federal spending as a percentage of the economy was higher during the Reagan years than during the Bush years, though Bush inherited a more advantageous starting position. Under Reagan, the national debt increased from just over $700 billion to more than $2 trillion (this included the defense build-up at the end of the Cold War); for Bush, the figure increased from $3.4 trillion to $5.8 trillion (including the costs of two wars). Some conservatives are highly critical of Bush’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), though history will vindicate that decision because much of the TARP money has been repaid, and its cost to taxpayers is lower than even its strongest early supporters expected (see here).'

"This is a misleading. The figures provided by the CBO, linked through Wikipedia, show the following respecting the national debt as a percentage of GDP: the end of Reagan's first term 43.8%, the end of Reagan's second term 53.1%; the end of Bush's first term 63.5%, the end of Bush's second term 83.4%. Furthermore, the problem with TARP was not only the enormous amount of taxpayer money used to subsidize financial institutions but the fact that it created a precedent for government intrusion in the marketplace not seen since Herbert Hoover laid the foundation for Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. The size and scope of Bush's federal intervention cannot be easily dismissed. Bush used $17.4 billion in TARP for loans to GM and Chrysler, even though Congress had rejected subsidizing those companies -- and, as best I can tell, without specific statutory authority. He also signed the $152 billion Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 and the $300 billion Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.

"In 2007, before much of Bush's massive increases in discretionary spending, the CATO Institute compared the annual growth of spending by presidents since 1964, adjusted for inflation. It concluded that Bush's increase in discretionary spending far exceeded not only Reagan's, but LBJ's: Bush 5.3%, LBJ 4.6%, Ford 3.0%, Carter 2.4%, Reagan 1.9%.

"Also, look here and here and here and here and here and here and 1000 other reliable links.

"Last month, Dan Mitchell wrote: 'Since February is the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth and I still haven't gotten over my man-crush on the Gipper, I figured it would be interesting to look at Reagan's fiscal record, particularly to see whether he was successful in restraining the growth of domestic spending.

"'There is lots of good information in the Historical Tables of the Budget, which is produced by the Office of Management and Budget. I was particularly fascinated by the data on inflation-adjusted total domestic spending (discretionary and entitlements), which can be obtained by adding columns E and H of Table 8.2.... Reagan managed to limit average domestic spending increases to less than one percent per year. These figures, which are adjusted for inflation, show that spending has grown more than five times as rapidly during the Bush-Obama years.'

"Frankly, it is absurd on every level to compare Reagan's spending (and tax) record to Bush's. Bush was an enthusiastic interventionist."

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