Steve H. Hanke
When Congressman Paul Ryan takes the stage at CPAC Friday morning, he will, of course, tout his new budget as a solution to America’s spending problem. The 2014 Ryan plan does aim to balance the budget in 10 years. That said, it would leave government spending, as a percent of GDP, at a hefty 19% – as my colleague, Daniel J. Mitchell, points out in his recent blog.
Proposals like the Ryan budget are all well and good, but they are ultimately just that – proposals. If Congressman Ryan really wants to get serious about cutting spending, he should look to the one U.S. President who has squeezed the federal budget, and squeezed hard.
So, who can Congressman Ryan look to for inspiration on how to actually cut spending? None other than President Bill Clinton.
How can this be? To even say such a thing verges on CPAC blasphemy. Well, as usual, the data don’t lie. Let’s see how Clinton stacks up against Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. As the accompanying chart shows, Clinton was the king of the fiscal squeeze.
Yes, Bill Clinton cut government’s share of GDP by a whopping 3.9 percentage points over his eight years in office. But, what about President Ronald Reagan? Surely the great champion of small government took a bite out of spending during his two terms, right? Well, yes, he did. But let’s put Reagan and Clinton head to head – a little fiscal discipline show-down, if you will (see the accompanying chart).
And the winner is….Bill Clinton. While Reagan did lop off four-tenths of a percentage point of government spending, as a percent of GDP, it simply does not match up to the Clinton fiscal squeeze. When President Clinton took office in 1993, government expenditures accounted for 22.1% of GDP. At the end of his second term, President Clinton’s big squeeze left the size of government, as a percent of GDP, at 18.2%. Since 1952, no other president has even come close.
Some might argue that Clinton was the beneficiary of the so-called “peace dividend,” whereby the post-Cold-War military drawdown led to a reduction in defense expenditures. The problem with this explanation is that the majority of Clinton’s cuts came from non-defense expenditures (see the accompanying table).
Admittedly, Clinton did benefit from the peace dividend, but the defense drawdown simply doesn’t match up to the cuts in non-defense expenditures that we saw under Clinton. Of course, it should be noted that the driving force behind many of these non-defense cuts came from the other side of the aisle, under the leadership of Speaker Gingrich.
The jury is still out on whether Ryan (or Boehner) will prove to be a Gingrich – or Obama, a Clinton. But, at the end of the day, the presidential scoreboard is clear – Clinton is the king of the fiscal squeeze.
So, when Congressman Ryan rallies the troops at CPAC with a call for cutting government spending, perhaps the crowd ought accompany a standing ovation for the Congressman with a chant of “Bring Back Bill!”
You can follow Prof. Hanke on Twitter at: @Steve_Hanke
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Challenge for Keynesian Anti-Sequester Hysterics, Part II: Why Did America’s Economy Boom When Reagan and Clinton Cut Spending?
Daniel J. Mitchell
Triggered by an appearance on Canadian TV, I asked yesterday why we should believe anti-sequester Keynesians. They want us to think that a very modest reduction in the growth of government spending will hurt the economy, yet Canada enjoyed rapid growth in the mid-1990s during a period of substantial budget restraint. I make a similar point in this debate with Robert Reich, noting that the burden of government spending was reduced as a share of economic output during the relatively prosperous Reagan years and Clinton years:
Being a magnanimous person, I even told Robert he should take credit for the Clinton years since he was labor secretary. Amazingly, he didn’t take me up on my offer.
These two charts show the stark contrast between the fiscal policy of Reagan and Clinton compared to Bush.
That brings us back to the original issue. The Keynesians fear that a modest reduction in the growth of government (under the sequester, the federal government will grow $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years rather than $2.5 trillion) will somehow hurt the economy. But government spending grew much slower under Reagan and Clinton than it has during the Bush-Obama years, yet I don’t think anybody would claim the economy in recent years has been more robust than it was in the 1980s and 1990s. And if somebody does make that claim, just show them this remarkable chart (or if they want a laugh, this Michael Ramirez cartoon makes the same point). So perhaps the only logical conclusion to reach is that government is too big and that Keynesian economics is wrong. I don’t think I’ll ever convince Robert Reich, but hopefully the rest of the world can be persuaded by real-world evidence.
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Hillary Clinton still has $73,000 in debt from her 2008 campaign hanging out there. But don’t worry folks, it’s not affecting her credit rating. No sirree.
All she needs to do is put out a call via her husband for donors to cover the expense.
As Hillary is likely to run for President in 2016, “friends” and admirers are happy to pony up the cash.
The fact that Bill Clinton commands upward of $750,000 per speaking engagement doesn’t seem to bother any of the people lining up to write checks to Hillary. And frankly why should it?
Amid speculation that Hillary Clinton might make a run for the presidency in 2016, her husband is taking another swing at shrinking her lingering 2008 campaign debt, which totals $73,000 as of Sept. 30.
In an email to supporters Wednesday, Bill Clinton offered a chance to spend a day with him if donors chipped in to drive down his wife’s campaign debt before Dec. 6.
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By Steve H. Hanke
Last night, Bill Clinton introduced President Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee. He went to great lengths to stress their similarities, but failed to mention their divergent views on the appropriate size of government.
When President Clinton took office in 1993, government expenditures were 22.1% of GDP, and when he departed in 2000, the federal government’s share of the economy had been squeezed to a low of 18.2%. As the accompanying table shows, during the Clinton years, federal government expenditures as a percent of GDP fell by 3.9 percentage points. No other modern president has come close.
And, that’s not all. During the final three years of the former President’s second term, the federal government was generating fiscal surpluses. Clinton was even confident enough to boldly claim, in his January 1996 State of the Union address, that “the era of big government is over.”
When it comes to the appropriate size of government, Clinton and Obama are polar opposites.
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By David Boaz
Over the weekend I stumbled upon C-SPAN’s broadcast of Bill Clinton’s 1992 speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president, and I remembered how he seemed like a “different kind of Democrat” at the time. As I started watching, I heard Clinton saying:
The most important family policy, urban policy, labor policy, minority policy, and foreign policy America can have is an expanding entrepreneurial economy of high-wage, high-skilled jobs …
Soviet communism has collapsed and our values—freedom, democracy, individual rights, free enterprise—they have triumphed all around the world.
And then he got into the meat of the “new Democrat” message:
To turn our rhetoric into reality we’ve got to change the way government does business, fundamentally. Until we do, we’ll continue to pour billions of dollars down the drain.
The Republicans have campaigned against big government for a generation, but have you noticed? They’ve run this big government for a generation and they haven’t changed a thing. They don’t want to fix government; they still want to campaign against it, and that’s all.
But, my fellow Democrats, its time for us to realize we’ve got some changing to do too. There is not a program in government for every problem, and if we want to use government to help people, we have got to make it work again….
Now, I don’t have all the answers, but I do know the old ways don’t work. Trickledown economics has sure failed. And big bureaucracies, both private and public, they’ve failed too.
That’s why we need a new approach to government, a government that offers more empowerment and less entitlement. More choices for young people in the schools they attend- in the public schools they attend. And more choices for the elderly and for people with disabilities and the long-term care they receive. A government that is leaner, not meaner; a government that expands opportunity, not bureaucracy; a government that understands that jobs must come from growth in a vibrant and vital system of free enterprise.
He made his famous promise to “end welfare as we know it.”
That’s not President Obama’s style. He’s not that kind of Democrat. He doesn’t talk about free enterprise as an American value, not even when speaking of freedom to students in China. Search for “free enterprise” on the White House website, and the first hit is to his famous “You didn’t build that” speech in Roanoke—which doesn’t include the word “enterprise,” or the word “free.” He doesn’t say that big bureaucracies have failed, or that we need more choice in education and health care.
Which presumably means Bill Clinton will have to write a different speech when he nominates President Obama for reelection on Wednesday night.
Now don’t get me wrong. There was plenty of old-fashioned Democratic liberalism in Clinton’s 1992 speech. He talked about “what all of us must give to our Nation,” which fits well with Obama’s view. He denounced outsourcing, he proclaimed that “health care is a right,” he promised billions in new federal spending and lots of programs.
He even deplored polarization and “the stereotypes that blind us,” reminding us that today’s complaints about polarization are nothing new. And I was struck by the way he delivered that complaint. He said that “for too long politicians have told the most of us that are doing all right that what’s really wrong with America is the rest of us—them.” And he elaborated:
Them, the minorities. Them, the liberals. Them, the poor. Them, the homeless. Them, the people with disabilities. Them, the gays.
All good points. Too much stereotyping. Too much polarization. Too much partisanship. Except that his list of stereotypes was very partisan. What about “Them, the conservatives”? “Them, the rich”? Aren’t those polarizing stereotypes too? You’d think a different kind of Democrat would have deplored all the stereotypes that politicians use to divide people.
David Maraniss writes in today’s Washington Post that “on most of the big issues, there is little or no space between [Clinton and Obama] as pragmatic liberals.” Maybe so, but in his campaign—and in his response to a midterm electoral rebuke—Clinton certainly gave voters the impression that he was a “different kind of Democrat,” one who appreciated the limits of government and the virtues of free enterprise. This week he’ll presumably have to give a full-throated defense of a president who never said that the era of big government is over, who increased the food stamp rolls by 14 million after Clinton reduced them by 11 million, who increased the national debt by $5 trillion compared to $1.6 trillion in the Clinton years. No doubt he’ll do a great job.
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3.6 Million Taxpayer Dollars Being Used To Support The Lavish Lifestyles Of Former Presidents Such As Bush And Clinton
You are not going to believe how much money is being spent on our former presidents. At a time when U.S. government spending is wildly out of control, a total of 3.6 million dollars is being used to support the lavish lifestyles of former presidents such as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton in 2012. For 2013, the plan is to increase that amount to 3.7 million dollars. But do any of them really need this kind of welfare? The truth is that all of them are very wealthy. So what justification is there for giving them so much money? You can see the GSA budget proposal for former presidents for 2013 right here. The 3.7 million dollars for 2013 does not even include the cost of Secret Service protection. Rather, it only covers expenses such as office rentals, travel, phone bills, postage, printing and pension benefits. Certainly it is not unreasonable to grant former presidents a small pension, but should we be showering them with millions of dollars each year? At a time when the federal government is drowning in so much debt, the fact that these former presidents are willing to take such huge amounts of taxpayer money really does make them look like parasites.
So why are these former presidents getting this money?
Congress passed The Former Presidents Act of 1958 because they didn’t want other presidents to end up as poor as Harry Truman did.
Well, these days former presidents are definitely not in danger of ending up poor. But this law does enable former presidents to stick the U.S. taxpayer with some absolutely outrageous bills.
For example, George W. Bush is scheduled to get $1,356,000 from U.S. taxpayers in 2013.
$85,000 of that will be for phone expenses.
He must have a really, really bad calling plan.
Bill Clinton is scheduled to get $1,019,000 from U.S. taxpayers in 2013.
A whopping $442,000 of that will be for office space.
That breaks down to more than $36,000 a month.
I hope that office space is nice.
Perhaps he needs a lot of office space to hide from Hillary.
George H.W. Bush is scheduled to get $879,000 from U.S. taxpayers in 2013.
$63,000 of that total will be going toward “equipment”.
How many iPads does he really need?
Even the old peanut farmer, Jimmy Carter, will be getting $518,000 from U.S. taxpayers in 2013.
But do they even need this money?
Exactly how wealthy are these former presidents?
Well, it turns out that they are very, very wealthy.
George W. Bush earned an estimated $15 million in speaking fees during just the first two years after he left office.
So why are we spending millions to support these guys?
Perhaps this is yet another question that we don’t have an answer to. We can add it to the list….
-Why do chimps throw poop?
The federal government has spent $592,527 to try to find the answer.
-Do unhappy people spend more time on Twitter or on Facebook?
The federal government has spent $198,000 in an attempt to get an answer.
-How do rats respond to jazz music when they are high on cocaine?
Your tax dollars are being spent to get to the bottom of it.
-Does cocaine cause Japanese quail to engage in sexually risky behavior?
The federal government has spent $175,587 to find out the truth.
Right now there are more than 100 million working age Americans that do not have jobs, and this is the kind of nonsense that the federal government is spending money on.
Shame on these former presidents for taking this money.
If our Congress critters are looking for a place to cut the federal budget, this would be a good place to start.
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