President Bush Was For a Bigger Department of Agriculture Before He Was Against It

While Cactus is hopeful that President Bush meant it when he proposed to reduce farm subsidies, permit me to be a bit cynical. Now I know that the Department of Agriculture’s budget for 2006 was only $96 billion, which translates into 0.72% of GDP. But the budget for 2001 was only $68 billion, which translates into 0.68% of GDP. In other words, during the last five years, nominal DOA spending rose by 41% as compared to the 31% growth rate in nominal GDP.

By comparison, total Federal spending in 2006 was 37.7% higher than it was in 2001. In other words, the ratio of Federal spending to GDP rose from 19.4% in 2001 to 20.3% in 2006. The Department of Defense, for example, commands a much larger portion of either the Federal budget or GDP – and it appears that this gigantic spending machine will not face cuts.

President Bush has lately been pretending that he is a small government. He certainly wasn’t for the first six years in office and I seriously doubt we’ll see cuts in Federal spending that will match the reductions in taxes he keeps promising to make permanent.

Update: I owe our readers a couple of things. First, a major thank you to Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation for the comment. He certainly know the details of the Department of Agriculture better than I do – and he sort of goes to the left of me on this one. I expect if he and I could be in charge of our farm policy, we’d find a lot of common ground moving towards less trade restrictions and less Federal spending. I should also note that Brad DeLong found common ground with Brian even if Brad added an originally extra “e” to his last name (now corrected).

The second thing is the graph of defense spending relative to GDP, which had dropped 4% during Clinton’s second term but is now around 4.7%. I suspect Brian and I would agree that it’d be nice if we could reduce defense spending, but this is not likely to happen in the next couple of years.

I know I’m sometimes hard on the Heritage Foundation, but as a member of the deficit hawk of the Democratic Party – I appreciate Brian’s efforts at pushing for fiscal responsibility. We on the left owe him two things – our support and spelling his name correctly.