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  • Sunday, October 22, 2006


    What's This About: Buck Wild by Stephen A. Slivinski

    Stephen A. Slivinski, director of budget studies at the Cato Institute, wrote a book published in August 2006, entitled Buck Wild: How Republicans Blew the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government.

    What does this book say?

    The book presents a critique of the Republican Party, more specifically, Republicans in Congress and in the White House since Reagan Administration. It is a critique levelled at Washington Republicans from the right, from the perspective of a fiscal conservative who feels the true principles of the Republican Party have been betrayed.

    Slivinski believes the Republican Party has abandoned limited government principles and thereby has betrayed the very foundations of the Party and threatens the future of the United States. Slivinski tries to show that Republicans, not Democrats, have become the biggest spenders in Washington.

    Slivinski relates how, in May 2004, members of the Republican Study Committee, formed in 1973 by fiscal conservatives in the House of Representatives who viewed President Nixon as fiscally irresponsible, had to meet in the basement of the Capitol building lik a band of insurgents because they are alone against President George W. Bush and most of the Republican Congress who have embraced Big Government and expanded the welfare state beyond the dreams of even the most starry-eyed liberal Democrat.

    According to Slivinski, Republicans in Congress were supposed to combat the big spending Democrats and give the power back to the people. Instead, they have far surpassed the Democrats in government growth, spending, and entitlement programs. The Republican Revolution of 1994 was about sending Republicans into the cesspool that was Congress to clean it up. Instead, Republicans got into the cesspool, found it felt more like a hot tub and decided to keep it the way it was.

    Slivinski asserts that President George W. Bush has presided over a budget that has grown by 27% after adjusting for inflation. That's more than twice as fast as during the eight years of Clinton's presidency. In historical context, Bush is second only to Lyndon Johnson in federal spending. This remains true even if you deduct spending on defense, homeland security, and entitlements.

    Government spending under George W. Bush, with Republicans in control of the White House and Congress, is 20% of U.S. gross domestic product. Slivinski cites data from the Joint Economic Committe of the U.S. Congress that performance of the U.S. economy is maximized when government spending is less than or equal to 15% of GDP. Under Clinton, when the White House and Congress were controlled by different parties, government spending was headed toward 17% of GDP.

    Slivinski appears to claim that a divided government, in which Congress and the White House are controlled by different political parties, is better for U.S. economic performance. From the last eight presidencies, Slivinski says the facts show that government grows the slowest when it is divided because divided government means less government spending and, consequently, more economic growth. According to Slavinski, the statistics from 1965 to 2006 show that the slowest growth in government spending comes when there is a Democrat in the White House and Republican-controlled Congress. Second to that is a Republican President and a Republican Senate coupled with a Democratic House.

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