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David Boaz's Blog:

My friend David Boaz of the Cato Institute has a new blog at the Guardian, and it's off to a great start. David's first post attempts to explain why conservatives love Bush so much, even though his economic policies are anything but conservative:

As a nominating speech for President Grover Cleveland once put it, "They love him most for the enemies he has made." Conservatives love Bush because the left hates him. If the New York Times would run a front-page story headlined "Bush Delivers the Big Government Clinton Never Did," and the lefty bloggers would pick it up and run with it, maybe conservatives would catch on.

So here's your challenge, lefty bloggers: If you don't like the tree-chopping, Falwell-loving, cowboy president--if you want his presidency fatally wounded for the next three years--then start praising him. One good Paul Krugman column taking off from that USA Today story on the surge in entitlements recipients under Bush, one Daily Kos lead on how Clinton flopped on national health care but Bush twisted every arm in the GOP to get a multi-trillion-dollar prescription drug benefit for the elderly, one cover story in the Nation on how Bush has acknowledged federal responsibility for everything from floods in New Orleans to troubled teenagers, and maybe, just maybe, National Review and the Powerline blog and Fox News would come to their senses. Bush is a Rockefeller Republican in cowboy boots, and it's time conservatives stopped looking at the boots instead of the policies.

I made a similar point a couple of years ago in a post called "George Bush, Liberal Darling," which provoked a storm of reaction from the left blogosphere.

UPDATE: Kieran Healy is entitled to his opinion, but his implication that David Boaz and I were once Bush supporters who have now turned on him for "the sake of their own conscience," is simply wrong. I've never been a fan of the president's, though of course I don't disagree with him on everything. I criticized him rather severely in 2004, and managed to find a far better candidate to vote for, and I didn't vote for Bush in 2000, either. And, though I don't want to speak for Boaz, I suspect that he has been even less of a fan than I have.

FURTHER UPDATE: The basic point of Boaz's post, it seems to me, is not that Bush is a liberal, or that liberals always support government spending. Rather, it's given that the Left will seemingly attack Bush for whatever he does, regardless of whether it promotes a conservative or a liberal agenda [see, e.g., the persistent attacks on the prescription drug benefit plan, the largest entitlement program since the Great Society, as a "giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry" because it doesn't fix drug prices. Food stamps don't control food prices, a giveaway to Big Ag? Student loans and grants don't control tuition prices, a giveaway to Big Education? Medicare originally did not control doctors' fees, a giveaway to doctors and hospitals? Section 8 vouchers don't control rent prices, a giveaway to landlords? Since when does the government's failure to include price controls with subsidies lead to so much indignation on the left?]. Under those circumstances, conservatives believe either (a) Bush is not being attacked for his policies, but for being a Republican, and thus good Republicans should defend him; and/or (b) If the Left were in power, they would outspend and outwaste and outnationalize Bush on entitlements, education, health care, etc., so better to support Bush than undermine him and let the Left take over.

We saw a similar phenomenon on the right with Clinton, with conservatives irrationally attacking him even when he pursued conservative policies, and the left, as a whole, swallowing their doubts and defending him. It wasn't so irrational, I suppose, if the object was to regain power, but it was if the object was to promote conservative economic policies. The right (barely) succeeded in winning the 2000 election, but also destroyed the national political commitment to fiscal restraint that had survived from Reagan to Clinton.

DaveK (mail):
While I think Mr. Boaz's observation about why conservatives rally around Bush is apt, I think his challenge to "lefty bloggers" is misguided for one key reason: Even pro-big-government left-liberals don't want spending on just any old thing. Bush has increased spending, but not particularly intelligently, so there's not much to praise even if you think entitlements should increase.

Falsely praising someone as a matter of reverse psychology is an awfully hard sell, too--not only is it dishonest, it's risky. (Bush would--rightly--turn it around and use it to show "bipartisan support".)
3.17.2006 2:49pm
DaveK (mail):
I should also add that even though it's probably true, Mr. Boaz's observation is sad. Supporting the enemy of your enemy does not make good policy.
3.17.2006 2:53pm
Commenterlein (mail):
This "Bush is wasting so much money in such stupid ways, so why don't you libruls embrace him" meme has been beaten down so times, I really don't understand why (some) conservatives feel the need do bring it up again and again.

Ok, one more time: Liberals don't like government spending or big government or whatever you like to call it. Liberals like the government to fulfill certain roles which they believe the government is best suited for (healthcare, schools, consumer protection, etc.), and liberals accept that this requires a certain level of taxation to fund these services. Liberals, much unlike conservatives, want government to work well and to deliver these services as efficiently as possible. The current train wreck of an administration is a nightmare for liberals since it mindlessly squanders resources which will be urgently needed in the future.
3.17.2006 2:54pm
Commenterlein (mail):
Unsurprisingly, Kieran Healy makes the same point much more eloquently:

"Oh, please. Sure, let me be the first to step up and say people on the left think Bush is great because of all the damage he's done. After all, "the left" and the Democratic Party are all about ruining America. Thanks but no thanks. Both Davids labor under the belief—geniune or disingenuous, who can say?—that "lefty bloggers" and their ilk are all in favor of irresponsible government spending, economic mismanagement, ham-fisted responses to security threats and natural disasters, gigantic handouts to energy and pharma companies disguised as environmental and health policy, phenomenally botched foreign policy interventions, and so on. If, after all that, schmibertarian fellow-travelers now feel that, for the sake of their own conscience, someone needs to smear the GOP faithful as rubes more impressed by cowboy boots than good government, let them go ahead and do it themselves."

http://crookedtimber.org/2006/03/17/do-your-own-dirty-work/
3.17.2006 3:08pm
LawProfCommentator (mail):
Right, and when the Left gets the government involved in, e.g., natural disaster spending, entitlement programs, federal involvement in education, it's almost always highly efficient and well executed, and when such spending is clearly counterproductive, as with farm programs, the left is up in arms. Remind me, who is the leading spokesperson on the left opposing wasteful government spending? [no one, right?] What left-wing organizations are dedicated to tackling wasteful government spending? [none, right?] How many Democrats in the House and Senate routinely vote against giving billions of dollars to agribusiness? [none, right?] Which left-wing think tank, journal, or blog, has made abolishing farm subsidies, reforming Medicare and education, etc. a major item on their agenda? [none, right?]
3.17.2006 3:29pm
joe (mail):
Liberals, much unlike conservatives, want government to work well and to deliver these services as efficiently as possible

Yes, you may want this to happen, but unfortunately it doesn't. So the difference then is that conservatives realize that government won't work well and can't deliver these services effectively, thus we spend our time thinking of solutions rather than saying "I want the government to do it". I want a Ferrari
3.17.2006 3:49pm
Commenterlein (mail):
LawProfCommentator,

Just because you seemingly don't know anybody "on the left" shouldn't lead you to the misguided belief that these people don't exist.

Spend a few weeks reading Krugman, DeLong, Yglesias, Collender and Drum as well as the people they link to and all your questions would be answered many times.
3.17.2006 3:52pm
Commenterlein (mail):
"So the difference then is that conservatives realize that government won't work well and can't deliver these services effectively, thus we spend our time thinking of solutions"

Tell me more about this private fire department of yours. And about your army. How's your highway system doing?

They must all be in great shape, and clearly so much better than anything the government could ever deliver.
3.17.2006 3:56pm
LawProfCommentator (mail):
I'm sure one can find individual liberals who believe in fiscal responsibility, but there is no mass constituency on the left for it, hence no liberal equivalents of the famous conservatives intellectuals, politicians, think tanks, journals, organizations, that focus on rooting out wasteful spending--except of course, with regard to the military. Did any of the prominent liberals who object to No Child Left Behind on federalism grounds praise Reagan when he suggested abolishing the Education Department and leaving education up to the states? Or oppose any of the mass of regulations the federal government imposed on local public schools before NCLB?
3.17.2006 4:05pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
I'm sure one can find individual liberals who believe in fiscal responsibility, but there is no mass constituency on the left for it, . . . Did any of the prominent liberals who object to No Child Left Behind on federalism grounds praise Reagan when he suggested abolishing the Education Department and leaving education up to the states?.

Absurd. Liberals objected to abolition of the Education Department on ideological and practical grounds. Just because practical concerns often outweigh economic ones does not mean that liberals never care about spending. This is such an obvious red herring, it is laughable. If Ralph Nader calls for the abolition of the US military (hey, it would eradicate the deficit entirey), and conservatives (and liberals) object to that idea as idiotic; does that meant they don't care about "fiscal responsibility"? I'll leave it to the LawProf Commentator to ponder this. . . .

Compare the fiscal record of Bill Clinton to that of George W. Bush. Case closed. Funny how conservatives love to ignore that good old conservative value: looking to the actual facts on the ground rather than what people supposedly say. The "big spending, fiscally irresponsible liberals" is a construct, which was been well-developed by decades of Republican talking points and bought into by the "liberal MSM." Give me a break -- if this commenter is really a law professor, I now understand why conservative law profs are indeed in short supply.

3.17.2006 4:15pm
LawProfCommentator (mail):
Liberals consistently attacked Clinton for cutting welfare, not spending enough, etc. More to the point, name a Democratic politician who has criticized Bush for spending too much on domestic concerns; or who has proposed a domestic spending budget lower than what has been passed.
3.17.2006 4:19pm
Commenterlein (mail):
LawProfCommentator,

I am afraid you are missing my point.

The silly argument advanced by the two Davids is that liberals should like Bush because he has grown the federal government. This meme comes up from time to time, and every time it does liberals patiently explain that we don't actually like big government per se (who does?)- it may be an unpleasant side-effect of certain things we like, but the less of the side-effect we get the better.

Your point is that there are more conservatives than liberals who are strongly (fanatically?) in favor of shrinking / abolishing / drowning the federal government. This is (a) obviously correct and (b) has nothing to do with the point I was making. Said differently, just because most conservatives are more anti-government than most liberals doesn't make liberals in favor of big government as an end in itself.
3.17.2006 4:19pm
LawProfCommentator (mail):
Oh, and the analogy between the army and the DOE doesn't work. With no army, there'd be no national defense. With no DOE, there would still be fifty state DOE's spending all sorts of money, and the lack of a federal DOE wouldn't stop Congress from appropriating federal money to help the states with education, but it would stop them from micromanaging the states, something liberals were in favor of until Bush proposed even more of it.
3.17.2006 4:21pm
Commenterlein (mail):
"name a Democratic politician who has criticized Bush for spending too much on domestic concerns; or who has proposed a domestic spending budget lower than what has been passed."

Other than reading the liberal bloggers I listed above, you may also want to try reading a newspaper.
3.17.2006 4:23pm
LawProfCommentator (mail):
Bloggers aren't politicians. So name one.
3.17.2006 4:25pm
Commenterlein (mail):
Are you serious or are you trolling?

You have a tough time finding any leading democrat who hasn't denounced Bush's reckless fiscal spending. Dean, Kerry, H. Clinton, pick whomever you like.
3.17.2006 4:34pm
sam24 (mail):
GREEDY CLERK

" if this commenter is really a law professor, I now understand why conservative law profs are indeed in short supply."
This statement seems to be based on the premise that Law Profs are of superior intellect. Can you give supporting evidence?
3.17.2006 4:39pm
LawProfCommentator (mail):
No, Clinton et al have attacked the reckless DEFICITS because of TAX CUTS, not spending. I'm willing to concede defeat though, if you can point me to Dean, Kerry, Clinton, criticizing Bush for SPENDING TOO MUCH MONEY on education, agriculture, etc.
3.17.2006 4:42pm
Albarello (mail):
No, Clinton et al have attacked the reckless DEFICITS because of TAX CUTS, not spending. I'm willing to concede defeat though, if you can point me to Dean, Kerry, Clinton, criticizing Bush for SPENDING TOO MUCH MONEY on education, agriculture, etc.

LawProf, the statement "you are spending too much on x" is only sensible relative to some facts about your income. If you cut your income (e.g. through tax cuts) then it is not surprising that you will suddenly find you are spending too much, even if the level of your spending has not changed.
3.17.2006 4:51pm
Commenterlein (mail):
John Kerry:

"It's time Washington got back to good old fashioned fundamental fiscal responsibility.

We must impose spending restraints so no one can propose or pass a new program without a way to pay for it. And we should enforce budget discipline with spending caps. During the 1990s, we had spending caps. We cut the deficit in half and then balanced the budget. And along the way, we created 23 million new jobs, increased family income across the board, and gave middle class families a tax cut. Because we limited the growth of government's budget, family budgets were able to grow.

It's time to return to a concept known as 'pay-as-you-go.'

It's time to have the courage to reduce or eliminate government programs that don't work. For example -- why not freeze the federal travel budget, reduce oil royalty exemptions for drilling on federal lands, and cut 100,000 contractors now employed by the federal government? We can streamline government agencies and commissions and reduce out-of-control administrative costs by five percent. And when we're done, the federal government would be smaller but smarter, more effective and less expensive.

We can't restore fiscal responsibility unless Washington leaders are willing to bring our divided parties together -- and ready to be straight with the public about what we can and can't afford."
3.17.2006 5:06pm
von (mail) (www):
It's unfortunate, but unsurprising, that Boaz assumes that the world can be divided into two camps, ssuch that if Bush is not conservative he must (ipso facto) be liberal, But it's weird that a libertarian endorses such a view. And, in any event, this Rockefeller Republican (we still exist) will gratefully decline the author's request to take Bush into the ranks and, indeed, fails to see the resemblence between the Bush's cited policies and those Rockefeller Republicans have been known to endorse. (This is not to say that all of Bush's policies are distasteful; his immigration plan is/was excellent, and I, for one, liked his attempt at Social Security reform, however poorly sold.
3.17.2006 5:08pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
No, Clinton et al have attacked the reckless DEFICITS because of TAX CUTS, not spending.

Wow, you really don't understand basic economics do you, Mr. LawProf. A Tax Cut on higher income earners (or on anyone) IS spending, e.g., it is a give-away to the rich. There is NO difference between cutting taxes on the rich and giving money to the poor. Either way, they drop the bottom line from where it was under President Clinton. Further, Clinton, et al, HAVE attacked reckless spending of this President, including the absurd prescription drug benefit which is no more than a give away to big corporations.


To answer another commenter's question, This statement seems to be based on the premise that Law Profs are of superior intellect. Can you give supporting evidence? No, I cannot and I do not buy into the premise. My comment was more directed to the reasoning used by the LawProf, which would make a second-year law-student at any decent law school laugh out loud --- the assumption that because "liberals" did not oppose abolition of the Dept of Education (DOE, by the way, Mr. Law Prof is commonly understood to be Energy) means that they don't care about spending. It was third-grade reasoning.

As to the good LawProf's comment that the analogy between abolition of the military and abolition of the Dept of Education does not work. . . . gee, yuh think??? More to the point, it does not work well based on your (and my) policy preferences, i.e. to have a strong unified national defense. If we did not believe in that strongly and thought spending concerns were more important, the analogy would work. This is all so freaking basic that I can't even believe I have to waste my time. If this guy is really a law prof, I'd really love to know where. . . . I'd also love to see a law review article of his . . . He makes Instapundit's blog read like the Yale Law Journal.

3.17.2006 5:21pm
LawProfCommentator (mail):
That's pretty good for Kerry, but falls a bit short on the specifics of criticizing Bush for spending too much on agriculture, education, etc. But if Kerry would run on a pay as you go, spending caps platform in '08, he might get support from surprising quarters.
3.17.2006 5:21pm
LawProfCommentator (mail):
A tax cut is actually spending? Now I know it's actually not worth debating with you.
3.17.2006 5:23pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Ok, one more time: Liberals don't like government spending or big government or whatever you like to call it. Liberals like the government to fulfill certain roles which they believe the government is best suited for (healthcare, schools, consumer protection, etc.), and liberals accept that this requires a certain level of taxation to fund these services.
Sure, in the abstract. In practice, liberals measure politicians' (and political parties') committment to that agenda by counting the number of dollars spent.

Moreover, it's hardly true to suggest that liberals merely want government to fulfill these roles because liberals believe government is "best suited for" them; liberals want government to fulfill these roles because liberals believe, ideologically, that these represent what government should do.

Liberals, much unlike conservatives, want government to work well and to deliver these services as efficiently as possible.
Yes, and I want peace on earth, $0.10/gallon gasoline, and the Yankees to be 0-162. But let's live in the real world, okay?

In the real world, that isn't one of the options. To paraphrase Milton Friedman, you're looking for a barking cat. But when you can't find one, you'll always choose the cat that meows over no cat at all.
3.17.2006 5:25pm
frankcross (mail):
LawProfCommentator, the Dems made pay/go a fundamental aspect of their 2000 campaign. It was Kerry's position and it was the position of Senate Dems.

It's not that hard to find out this information.
3.17.2006 5:27pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
LawProf, the statement "you are spending too much on x" is only sensible relative to some facts about your income. If you cut your income (e.g. through tax cuts) then it is not surprising that you will suddenly find you are spending too much, even if the level of your spending has not changed.
Yes, if you're concerned about deficits, then "you're spending too much" is only sensible relative to your income. If you're concerned about the size of government, as libertarians are, then "you're spending too much" is true in an absolute sense, not a relative one.



Wow, you really don't understand basic economics do you, Mr. LawProf. A Tax Cut on higher income earners (or on anyone) IS spending, e.g., it is a give-away to the rich. There is NO difference between cutting taxes on the rich and giving money to the poor.
Well, actually, that's not "economics" at all. That's bookkeeping, and it's true only in a P&L sense. The budget deficit may be the same whether you spend more or tax less, but that in no way makes them the same. There is a huge difference between them.

The tax cut is not "giving" anything to anybody, rich or otherwise. The rich already have that money. The tax cut is the decision not to take it at all.
3.17.2006 5:30pm
anonymous coward:
Bernstein, Boaz, et al. give lefties little credit for nuanced, intelligent views, resulting in statements that seem--charitably--odd to those of us sympathetic to some lefty views.

I suppose Boaz's post is based on what the left believes in some fantasy world in his head. That's fine as far as I'm concerned--but you really shouldn't be surprised that lefties like Kieran cheerfully return the favor, assuming that you've been part of the Bush borg.
3.17.2006 5:30pm
LawProfCommentator (mail):
Thanks to F.C. for this information. But all I've seen and heard on the Sunday morning talk shows and NPR are Dems attacking Bush for deficits and for spending too little (even when they argue that the drug plan would cost less if the government set prices, they then add that it should be expanded well beyond what it currently is). If there is a substantial constituency among the Dem elite for reducing the growth of federal spending, they aren't doing a great job of articulating this to the public.
3.17.2006 5:35pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Am I the only one who finds David B's response to Kieran Healy a transparent effort to change the subject? Kieran was not attacking David and Boaz for supporting Bush and then retracting it. He was taking issue with David's and Boaz's assumption that Both Davids labor under the belief—genuine or disingenuous, who can say?—that "lefty bloggers" and their ilk are all in favor of irresponsible government spending, economic mismanagement, ham-fisted responses to security threats and natural disasters, gigantic handouts to energy and pharma companies disguised as environmental and health policy, phenomenally botched foreign policy interventions, and so on. Further, I must note that David B's constant effort to persuade us that he is really just a big nice libertarian and not a neocon is laughable. David, anyone who supported the Iraq War on the utopian dream of spending a trillion bucks and countless lives to impose democracy on the world, and that such an imposition would solve all our problems is no libertarian. They are idologues, not very different from the communists of decades past. They believe in some ridiculous dream that the world should all be run in the same fashion -- now "democracy" instead of communism -- and that we just need to impose it on everyone.
3.17.2006 5:36pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
The tax cut is not "giving" anything to anybody, rich or otherwise. The rich already have that money. The tax cut is the decision not to take it at all.

Umm, that's an ideological contention not a factual one.

LawProf, I like the way you have no response. You're a clown.

3.17.2006 5:38pm
Commenterlein (mail):
Shorter LawProf and Nieporent:

"I don't know anything about liberals or democrats, so let me just make some stupid sounding stuff up and then argue against it."

I want the time back I wasted trying to argue with you. As an academic, I sincerely hope that the LawProf is no such thing.
3.17.2006 5:42pm
LawProfCommentator (mail):
When did DB ever say anything like this.

"David, anyone who supported the Iraq War on the utopian dream of spending a trillion bucks and countless lives to impose democracy on the world, and that such an imposition would solve all our problems is no libertarian. They are idologues, not very different from the communists of decades past."
3.17.2006 5:43pm
Kieran (mail) (www):
Kieran Healy is entitled to his opinion, but his implication that David Boaz and I were once Bush supporters who have now turned on him for "the sake of their own conscience," is simply wrong. I've never been a fan of the president's ...

It seems clear you and Boaz have gotten a certain amount of glee out of the rage Bush has inspired in his left-leaning opponents over the years. And yet both of you also actually believe that many of Bush's policies are terrible —- you hate his hunger for power and his courting of the religious right, and Boaz, I believe, disagrees with the war in Iraq. The natural thing would be to critique these policies yourself. But you don't really want to do this regularly, as it would bring you too close to the moonbat leftists who also make you come out in hives. So you want the moonbats to do the job for you, by the bizarre means of praising the President for his spendthrift ways in order to erode his support amongst mainstream GOP voters.

I said "for the sake of your conscience," then, not because I thought you once supported Bush and now do not, but because you don't want to admit that much of "the left's" critique of Bush has been (a) right and (b) not much different from your own in many respects. So, for the sake of your conscience, you and Boaz seem to prefer to retreat to the absurd belief that "the left" ought somehow to support Bush because they are happy to see the size of government grow through carefree spending for whatever reason. This would give you license to say that the President wasn't a true conservative because — look! — Paul Krugman or whoever said isn't it great that he has spent buckets of money. Of course, this isn't going to happen. As Mark Kleiman points out today, being a bad conservative does not make you a liberal, however much Messrs Bernstein &Boaz might want to believe otherwise.
3.17.2006 6:01pm
Craig Oren (mail):
was "they love him for the enemies he has made" really said about Grover Cleveland. I thought it was first said of Alfred Smith, Governor of New York and 1928 Democratic presidential candidate. Does anyone have a cite?
3.17.2006 6:15pm
R:
I could be wrong, but I don't think Boaz really believes that most liberals love government spending for its own sake. I just think he's saying that some of Bush's domestic spending policies are very un-conservative, and that Bush's supporters tend to overlook this and rally behind him anyway partly because the left hates him so much.

I also suspect that Boaz is being more tongue in cheek with this post than actually attempting to give the left useful political advice in how to get Bush's supporters to turn on him.

Again, I could be off base with my take on the post, but I think people are taking it far too literally.
3.17.2006 6:30pm
Francis:
Mr. Bernstein: you might want to note that the "storm of reaction" you received regarding your post on GWB being a liberal actually contained a number of meritorious arguments.

you committed the fallacy of the excluded middle then, and you're committing it again. just because GWB is spending money like a drunken sailor doesn't make him a fan of liberals. As to why he isn't a fan of liberals, well, if you really need it explained to you at this point then you really are beyond help.
3.17.2006 6:38pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Nice work Kieran (with a good followup by Francis).

David, you just got owned.
3.17.2006 6:57pm
Kieran (mail) (www):
On reflection I'm happy to retract the "schmibertarian" jab as unfair. I think Bernstein is more of a neocon than a libertarian, and Boaz -- and Cato generally, insofar as I've noticed -- have been consistently libertarian in their critiques of Bush's domestic and foreign policy. That said, "Do your own dirty work" is still the right response to Boaz's silly "challenge." At best he's just trying to spread the blame around in a tongue-in-cheek way. At worst he really does think liberals want to spend money/expand govt for the sake of it, and that this means Bush is just a liberal in disguise or something.
3.17.2006 8:05pm
Brett Bellmore (mail):

The tax cut is not "giving" anything to anybody, rich or otherwise. The rich already have that money. The tax cut is the decision not to take it at all.

Umm, that's an ideological contention not a factual one.


If the rich don't already have all that money, Greedy Clerk, why exactly is it that the government needs to levy taxes in order to get it? Not much point in taxing people to obtain something they don't have, is there?

Sorry, the contention that levying lower taxes is "spending" is nothing more than a rhetorical ploy intended to make taking less of people's money look to be the moral equivalent of porkbarreling.
3.17.2006 8:10pm
byomtov (mail):
the national political commitment to fiscal restraint that had survived from Reagan to Clinton.

"from Reagan to Clinton?" No. From GHW Bush to Clinton.
3.17.2006 11:19pm
davidbernstein (mail):
B.Y, don't have the figures handy, but spending growth under Reagan was slower than GW Bush; it rose under GW Bush more than under Reagan, and then less under Clinton than under Bush, but more than under Reagan. You are probably confusing "fiscal restraint" with "deficit reductton." But as Milton Friedman has pointed out the key number is how much the gov't spends, not how much it taxes.
3.18.2006 12:00am
SLS 1L:
DB - Medicare Part D isn't a "giveaway to the prescription drug industry" merely because it doesn't fix prices. It's because the program was never designed to provide prescription drugs to people in an effective way. Instead we have things like donut holes, an impossible-to-negotiate maze of plans that may or may not cover the drugs a given person actually needs (and woe to you if you start needing a different drug), etc. If the program had been designed to be effective, not fixing prices might be a necessary compromise, but when the program is merely designed to neutralize a Democratic issue, it's a giveaway. (Remember that Ted Kennedy got behind it, but then the Republicans screwed him over in conference committee.)
3.18.2006 12:13am
davidbernstein (mail):
I'm no expert on Medicare, but I would separate outrage over the plan's complexity and lack of full coverage from the outrage over its being a "giveaway" to industry for not fixing prices; I've heard the latter complaint a lot.
3.18.2006 12:26am
Francis (mail):
"But as Milton Friedman has pointed out the key number is how much the gov't spends, not how much it taxes."

whaaa? So deficits are meaningless? The post-baby boomers can default on the bonds owned by the Chinese central bank without consequence?

please tell me that the "davidbernstein" who authored the comment is not the David Bernstein who wrote the post.

btw, last i checked reagan spent 22% of gdp, and gwb is spending 20% of gdp. of course, the latter is only collecting taxes at 17.5% of gdp. hmmm. what could be the consequences of such a policy?
3.18.2006 1:14am
Byomtov:
but spending growth under Reagan was slower than GW Bush; it rose under GW Bush more than under Reagan, and then less under Clinton than under Bush, but more than under Reagan. You are probably confusing "fiscal restraint" with "deficit reductton." But as Milton Friedman has pointed out the key number is how much the gov't spends, not how much it taxes.

You should check the figures. Try this.

You'll see that during the Reagan years outlays were generally over 22% of GDP, very high by historical standards. For virtually all of the postwar period outlays had been under 20%, with 1946, unsurprisingly, the major exception, at 24.8%. This figure gradually declined through the 90's, dropping below 20% again in 1997.

As to Friedman, while he has a point, the quote hardly tells the whole story. Deficits can create problems also, and I hardly think the phrase "fiscal restraint" can be defined with Euclidean rigor to refer only to the level of government spending.

Indeed, even if spending is your only concern (a rather foolish view, I think), you should recognize the political fact that "borrow and spend" is generally worse than "tax and spend" because "tax and spend" requires actually figuring out where the money to be spent is going to come from, rather than passing the debt on to someone else. That's a constraint in itself.
3.18.2006 12:16pm
davidbernstein (mail):
I didn't say that gov't spending as a percentage of GDP was especially low under Reagan, I said the rate of spending growth was lower under Reagan, and that's especially true if you carve out the "peace dividend" that Bush I and Clinton benefited from.
3.18.2006 1:28pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
The tax cut is not "giving" anything to anybody, rich or otherwise. The rich already have that money. The tax cut is the decision not to take it at all.
Umm, that's an ideological contention not a factual one.
Um, no. It's a factual one. Our hypothetical rich person here gets his income from his employer, or his investments, or his rich uncle who just died. Not from the government. Then Congress decides how much it of this money is going to take. It may take 20%, or 30%, or 50%. He brings in a million dollars, it may take $200,000 or $300,000 or $500,000.

If Congress says, "You know what? Last year we took 30%, but this year we're only going to take 20%," that's not "giving" him $100,000. That $100,000 came from his employer, or from the stock he invested in, or from the uncle's estate. IT DID NOT COME FROM THE GOVERNMENT.

That's a factual statement.
3.19.2006 5:33pm