EDITOR’S NOTE: This article appears in the April 5, 2004, issue of National Review.
To the chagrin of fiscal conservatives, the Bush administration is set to achieve a record of spending growth unseen since the era of Lyndon B. Johnson. In December, perhaps sensing that all was not well among the president’s supporters, Joshua Bolten, his budget chief, energetically defended the administration in the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, and then, in February, returned to the fray by testifying in front of the House Budget Committee. After scrutinizing his assertions, it’s difficult not to conclude that the administration is spinning so hard on this one it’s positively Clintonesque.
Take, for example, the claim we hear most often to justify spending growth: “Like America itself, the Federal budget has faced extraordinary challenges in recent years: a stock market collapse that began in early 2000; a recession that was fully underway in early 2001; revelation of corporate scandals years in the making; and of course, the September 11 attacks and ensuing War on Terror.” In other words, “Hey, it’s not our fault. First we were dealt bad cards and then we drew worse ones.” It’s true–but only up to a point.
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