Better Late Than Never
Today, the Washington Post writes on Bush’s lie (“If you look at the appropriations bills that were passed under my watch, in the last year of President Clinton, discretionary spending was up 15 percent, and ours have steadily declined”):
“If you look at the appropriations bills that were passed under my watch, in the last year of President Clinton, discretionary spending was up 15 percent, and ours have steadily declined,” Mr. Bush told NBC’s Tim Russert. There was only one problem with Mr. Bush’s statement: It was wrong. Discretionary spending did not grow nearly as much during Mr. Clinton’s tenure as Mr. Bush implied, nor has his spending record been nearly as restrained as his comments suggest.
… A spokesman explained that Mr. Bush meant to refer only to the portion of discretionary spending, less than half the total, that goes to programs other than defense and homeland security. On that portion of spending, Mr. Bush was essentially correct. … Even then, though, Mr. Bush overstated the rise in spending in the last year of the Clinton administration, when the budget enjoyed a surplus — it was about 10 percent, and that hike followed years of much slower growth. Moreover, overall federal spending on discretionary programs has risen far more during the Bush administration than it did in the Clinton years …
… Mr. Bush argued on Sunday that his record has been one of fiscal restraint. The facts — once checked — show otherwise.
I’m not sure the editorial is right about the 10% number, though it’s hard to say for sure since they don’t precisely identify the type of spending they mean. Overall discretionary spending growth from 2000 to 2001 was 5.5%. If some major component of that grew at 10% then some other major component had to grow at much less than 10% for the average to be 5.5%. Perhaps the Post did some friendly rounding of the numbers in this Josh Claybourn post, which show non-defense discretionary spending increasing from $306b in 2000 to $332b in 2001, an increase of 8.5%.