Spend Smarter, Not More

Had John Kerry become President and invited Alice Rivlin to be part of his economic team, I suspect her advice to President Kerry would be similar to the advice she offered President Clinton. Froma Harrop reminds us of how Hubert Humphrey defined being a liberal back in 1949:

Back in 1949, the great Minnesota liberal Hubert Humphrey was pointedly asked on “Meet the Press” whether progressives like himself cared about holding down the costs of government. Humphrey answered yes, but “economy in government to me doesn’t necessarily mean spending little. It means spending what you have and spending it well … “

Harrop’s discussion then turns to the current Administration that pretends to be giving us tax cuts as it piles massive amounts of deferred tax liabilities upon us:

As for White House comparisons, there’s no contest. The current Republican administration leaves its Democratic predecessor in the dust for both amounts spent and money wasted. Bush is the biggest spender since Lyndon Johnson, according to the Cato Institute. In domestic discretionary spending (which doesn’t include defense or entitlements), Bush has Johnson beat. By contrast, Bill Clinton stands as a paragon of restraint. Domestic discretionary spending jumped an average 8 percent a year in Bush’s first term, versus only 2.5 percent annually in Clinton’s eight years. Many conservatives are amazed that Democrats haven’t made more hay of their superior record in containing the size of government. The Democrats’ dilemma is that they are not philosophically opposed to expanded government, even if in practice they have shown far more spending discipline. Democrats really ought to brag about their Clintonian track record. Not only did they keep government growth in check, but they paid its bills the old-fashioned way, with tax revenues. That’s what fiscal rectitude is all about. And it shines next to the Bush administration’s disgraceful habit of borrowing on the backs of future generations. Even more important, Democrats have spent the taxpayers’ money with greater care. The reason, in part, is that Democrats don’t maintain a childlike faith in the good intentions and can-do of the private sector. They believe in regulating these guys — and that government can do some things better than can business. The Bush administration likes to send big checks and a have-a-nice-day to private contractors, who then do as they please. Our MBA president seems to forget that he is supposed to represent the taxpayers in these transactions, not the business interests.

Many thanks to AB reader bakho for bringing this to our attention!