The Bush Deficit – Is Nondefense Spending to Blame?

Angrybear has invited comments from all sorts including sensible conservatives and certain trolls who are nothing more than apologists for the Bush Administration. Incidentally, I sense that sensible conservatives really grow tired of being associated with the apologists for the Bush Administration. Who can blame them? There is an advantage to this openness – it allows us an early read of the GOP talking points for the 2008 elections such as this claim:

the debt is coming from your social programs, not from the war spending. It is your social collectivism that is piling up the debt for future generations to pay.

You see – those tax cuts and all that defense spending are not the reason why Bush has high deficits, it is all those alleged increases in domestic spending such as “social programs” (whatever that means.). OK, we do have some story from over two years ago by Dennis Cauchon of USA Today, which is the troll’s only “evidence”:

A sweeping expansion of social programs since 2000 has sparked a record increase in the number of Americans receiving federal government benefits such as college aid, food stamps and health care. A USA TODAY analysis of 25 major government programs found that enrollment increased an average of 17% in the programs from 2000 to 2005. The nation’s population grew 5% during that time.

But wait – what about inflation and does the population growth track the growth in enrollment? Click on the link and you’ll enrollment grew faster than the general population (maybe something to do with demographics). In fact, we see later in the same story:

Spending on these social programs was $1.3 trillion in 2005, up an inflation-adjusted 22% since 2000 and accounting for more than half of federal spending. Enrollment growth was responsible for three-fourths of the spending increase, according to USA TODAY’s analysis of federal enrollment and spending data. Higher benefits accounted for the rest … Robert Greenstein, head of the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, says the growth in the number of people in many programs is due to a rise in the poverty rate from 11.3% in 2000 to 12.7% in 2004, the most recent year available. “It’s certainly better that people falling into poverty can get Medicaid, but I’d prefer fewer poor people and employers not dropping medical coverage,” he says.

A graph displayed by Paul Krugman makes a mockery of this abuse of 2005 data to reflect what’s going on in 2008 as 2005 was a bit of an aberration with the ratio of domestic discretionary spending as a share of GDP being lower in 2008 than it was in 2001. Paul would have us check out this analysis from CBPP, which includes this observation:

In 2008, funding for domestic discretionary programs outside homeland security is lower as a share of the economy than it was in 2001. And, between 2002 and 2008, the overall funding level for domestic discretionary programs outside homeland security declined 2.6 percent in real per capita terms.

Using annual data from this source, I decided to look at overall Federal revenue (including payroll contributions) and overall Federal expenditures (including Social Security benefits) to see how much of the swing from (unified) surpluses to deficits is attributable to tax cuts, defense spending increases, and changes in nondefense spending. In 2000, Federal revenues were 20.9% of GDP but they were only 19.3% of GDP in 2007. In 2000, defense spending represented 3.8% of GDP but was 4.8% of GDP in 2007. All other Federal spending as a share of GDP rose from 15.2% in 2000 to 16.1% in 2007. Yet certain Bush apologists wish to pin all of the blame for the Bush deficits on nondefense spending. Seriously – are these apologists really this ill informed or are they just as dishonest as their masters?