Domestic Policy

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  Gop'S "Small Government" Talk Is HollowMarch 18, 1998 11:24 As the budget debate heats up, Republicans are warning of socialism in the White House and claiming that Democrats are rushing back to their dangerous tonic of big government.

Speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Rush Limbaugh warned that "the future is not Big Government. Self-serving politicians. Powerful bureaucrats. This has been tried, tested throughout history. The result has always been disaster."

On CNN, former Vice President Dick Cheney said he is worried that the administration is using the current economic conditions to "justify" a "massive expansion" in the government.

After the past eight years in American politics, it is impossible to reconcile current promises by conservatives for small government with the historical record of President Bush's administration. Most experts on the left and right can find one issue upon which to agree: The federal government expanded significantly after 2001 when George W. Bush was in the White House.

The growth did not just take place with national security spending but with domestic programs as well. Even as the administration fought to reduce the cost of certain programs by preventing cost-of-living increases in benefits, in many other areas of policy -- such as Medicare prescription drug benefits, federal education standards and agricultural subsidies -- the federal government expanded by leaps and bounds. And then there are the costs of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Federal spending stood at about $1.9 trillion in 2000, when Democrat Bill Clinton ended his presidency. In his final year in office, Bush proposed to spend $3.1 trillion for fiscal year 2009. President Obama's budget proposal for fiscal 2010 is $3.6 trillion.

Nor can Republicans blame a Democratic Congress for being responsible for these trends. Much of the expansion took place between 2002 and 2006, when Republicans controlled both Congress and the White House. The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes was writing about "big government conservatism" back in 2003.

Two years later, the right-wing CATO Institute published a report noting that total government spending had grown by 33 percent in President Bush's first term, lamenting that "President Bush has presided over the largest overall increase in inflation-adjusted federal spending since Lyndon B. Johnson."

 
  Republican South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford Rejects Federal Stimulus MoneyMarch 11, 1998 08:07 South Carolina governor Mark Sanford is expected today to become the first governor to formally reject some of the federal stimulus money earmarked by Congress for his state.

The move will cement Sanford's growing reputation as a political powerhouse among Republican party stalwarts nationwide - though how much of the estimated $8bn in stimulus funds destined for South Carolina will be affected is unclear. The law allows state legislative leaders to accept funds the governor rejects.