As I've mentioned before, President Bush is increasing federal spending far faster than Bill Clinton ever did, even when the War on Terror tand other defense-related expenditures are factored out. The new prescription drug entitlement is just another brick in the wall, and even the conservative Washington Times is taking note: "Spending escalates under GOP watch".

Nondefense spending has skyrocketed under Republican control of Congress and the White House, and critics say the outlays will hit the stratosphere with the passage this week of a drug entitlement for seniors.

The Congressional Budget Office reported that nondefense spending rose 7 percent in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, nearly double the 4 percent discretionary spending caps that President Bush insisted Congress honor.

Since Mr. Bush took office in 2001, nondefense spending has leapt 13 percent — 21 percent if spending on the war on terrorism is included.

President Bush seems to be trying to pull our country out of a recession in the same way Reagan did in the 80s: cut taxes, increase spending. But the millenial recession wasn't nearly as severe as the one Reagan faced, and all the indicators show that it's way past over -- it's time to tighten our belts.

Chris Edwards, director of fiscal policy at the libertarian Cato Institute, said the Bush record on spending has been a major disappointment.

"My impression of Bush is that I've never seen him give a speech in which he says government is too big and we need to cut costs," Mr. Edwards said, pointing out that President Reagan vetoed 23 bills in his first three years in office, while Mr. Bush has yet to unsheathe his veto pen.

As I've also said before, we're seeing one of the great disadvantages of a united White House and Congress: everything gets through. No one wants to rock the boat and endanger their own projects, so they just sign whatever's put in front of them. One of the advantages should be that the President gets to appoint judges to his liking, but President Bush hasn't really fought for any of his rejected nominees.

As for the so-called $400 billion prescription drug entitlement, I don't think anyone will be surprised when the projected cost turns out to be low by at least 1 order of magnitude.

Brian M. Riedl, a budget analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation, said mandatory government spending on entitlements such as Medicare will reach 11.1 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, a record high. That number will climb exponentially, he said, once seniors begin getting government-paid drugs in 2006.

"Congress often underestimates entitlements by a lot," Mr. Riedl said. "By our calculations, it will cost $2 trillion between now and 2030."

That's assuming that the program never is expanded, he said, an unlikely scenario.

When Congress created the Medicare program in 1965, the projected cost in 1990 was $9 billion. The true cost, after several expansions that came with low-balled price tags, was $67 billion, 7.4 times higher.

Entitlements are so hard to eliminate once they're created, because their beneficiaries want to stay on the gravy train -- and eventually they feel entitled to my money. When costs swell, the money will have to be raised somehow, either through conquering more oil-rich nations (kidding) or by taxes.

"We hope that this is not the legacy of the Bush administration," Mr. Schatz said. "We hope these will be aberrations that will be corrected in coming years."

A senior Republican congressional aide said many conservatives on Capitol Hill are hoping that is the case. If it isn't, Mr. Bush and the party will have some explaining to do to their political base.

"There's only so long we can be told [by the White House], 'Just keep waiting for spending restraint,' " the aide said. "Eventually you develop a credibility problem. There's a point where people say, 'We've heard that for five years and nothing's happened.'"

The legacy of President Bush will almost certainly be the War on Terror, but I really do think it's valid to worry about the future of the Republican party. Someone has to dig their heels in for low spending, and if it's not the Republicans then I'm afraid America could still end up like Europe.



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