Wash. Post uncritically reported Rove's claim that GOP is "for less spending"


A June 13 Washington Post article reported Karl Rove's claim in a recent speech that Democrats are "for more spending," while Republicans support "less spending" but provided no rebuttal to the assertion. In fact, President Bush and the GOP-led Congress have joined in creating massive budget deficits by significantly increasing domestic and defense spending while cutting taxes.

In an article on White House senior adviser Karl Rove's June 12 speech before the New Hampshire Republican Party, Washington Post staff writer David A. Farenthold reported Rove's claim that Democrats are "for more spending," while Republicans support "less spending." Farenthold provided no rebuttal to the assertion. In fact, President Bush and the GOP-led Congress have joined in creating massive budget deficits by significantly increasing domestic and defense spending while cutting taxes.

From Farenthold's June 13 article, headlined "Rove's Speech to N.H. Republicans Keeps to Partisan Line":

Instead, Rove's speech was about sharpening the differences between the GOP and its opponents.

"They're for higher taxes. We're for lower taxes," he said during his description of the economy. "They're for more spending. We're for less spending."

Rove made similarly blunt points about the war. He defended the administration's decision to invade Iraq by laying out Saddam Hussein's "vital interest" in acquiring advanced weapons technology.

But Bush's economic record belies Rove's claim that "[w]e're for less spending." Indeed, since President Clinton left office in 2001, both defense spending and non-defense discretionary spending have significantly increased -- and increased at greater percentages than when Clinton was in office -- while the White House has simultaneously pushed through drastic tax cuts, resulting in widening budget deficits. Knight Ridder staff writer Ron Hutcheson reported on the Bush administration's spending habits in a February 7 article:

Over the past five years, Bush and the Republican-led Congress have been far better at expanding government than shrinking it. Spending for national security and government entitlement programs has skyrocketed, without offsetting cuts in other programs.


Tax revenues flowing to the federal government declined in the first three years of Bush's presidency, driven down by tax cuts and a mild recession. They have since rebounded as a result of economic growth and other factors, but federal spending has increased even more.

The $128 billion budget surplus that Bush inherited in 2001 has turned into a deficit of at least $337 billion this year.

Indeed, an analysis of non-defense discretionary spending in federal budgets approved during Bush's first term shows that spending increased in this category by 8.4 percent per year, as compared to an average of 4.2 percent during President Clinton's two terms. Based on data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Media Matters for America has created the following table, comparing the non-defense discretionary spending in nominal terms under Clinton (fiscal years 1994-2001) to that during Bush's first term (fiscal years 2002-2005):

Non-Defense Discretionary Spending


Outlay (in billions)

Percent Change



+ 4.9%



+ 4.7%



- 1.7%



+ 3.3%



+ 2.3%



+ 5.2%



+ 7.9%



+ 7.3%



+ 12.3%



+ 9.1%



+ 4.9%



+ 7.5%

Further, while Clinton's first term saw gradual reduction in budget deficits and his second term brought large surpluses, each year of Bush's first term was marked by record budget deficits, as Media Matters has noted.

The White House has shown few signs that it plans to curb this trend, as evidenced by Bush's two most recent budgets. In January, the CBO projected that the FY 2006 budget deficit would be at least $337 billion -- a 5.8 percent increase over the previous year's $318 billion shortfall. And in March, the CBO estimated that Bush's FY 2007 spending plan would "add $35 billion to the deficit that CBO currently projects for 2006, reducing revenues by nearly $9 billion and boosting outlays by $27 billion." Further, in order to accommodate its deficit spending, the Bush administration recently pushed for an increase in the statutory debt limit -- to nearly $9 trillion -- which the Republican-led Congress subsequently approved.

Bush's ongoing fiscal irresponsibility has increasingly drawn the ire of fiscal conservatives. For instance, the libertarian Cato Institute published a report showing that discretionary spending has increased at a greater rate under Bush than under any other U.S. president. From the October 2005 report:

George W. Bush is the biggest spending president of the past 40 years in both the defense and domestic discretionary spending categories by a long shot. Indeed, he beats [President Lyndon B.] Johnson by almost four percentage points in defense spending growth and more than three percentage points in domestic discretionary spending growth.

Posted In
Economy, Budget
The Washington Post
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