Are Republicans Really for Smaller Government?

Uploaded by shanedk on 08.06.2011

We've been hearing a lot since Obama got elected, especially in the 2010 election and since
then, that Republicans are the party of smaller government. The same thing we've heard for
decades. I really have one response to this:
When have Republicans EVER been for smaller government? What I would like to do is go
over the history of every Republican president in this country and see if there is any merit
to this idea, if Republicans can actually be shown to have worked for smaller government.
The first Republican ever to be elected President was Abraham Lincon. If Abraham Lincoln was
a small-government guy, then I'm a creationist! Let's leave aside all of the historical controversies
surrounding the Civil War; during Lincoln's presidency, the size of the Federal government
increased dramatically. When Lincoln first took office, the Federal budget was $63.2
million. That's about $1.5 billion in today's money. By the time he was assassinated, that
had grown to $1.29 billion, which, again adjusting for inflation, would be about $17 billion
in today's money! That's an elevenfold increase! And that wasn't all military spending. Under
Lincoln, non-defense spending went from $45.8 million--over a billion in today's dollars--to
$63.6 million, a 141% increase. Lincoln instituted a national bank, the first one since Andrew
Jackson had dismantled the Second Bank of the United States. He instituted an income
tax and inflationary fiat currency. Even worse than that, he was an avid supporter of protectionist
tariffs and used them not only to raise revenues, but to favor politically-connected industries
and businesses over others--corporatism at its finest. And when you look at Federal civilian
employees--employees that had nothing to do with fighting the war--Lincoln's administration
went from 26,300 civilians on the Federal payroll to 53,000!
But that's just one president. What about his Republican successors? Over the next four
Republican administrations--Grant, Hayes, Garfield, and Arthur--government non-defense
spending went from $96.6 million to $114.1 million. And during this time, the protectionist
tariffs continued with a vengeance. None of the other Republican presidents helped that,
either. In fact, the only president who could be said to have worked for smaller government
during this time was Grover Cleveland, the only Democratic president until Woodrow Wilson.
Cleveland fought against high tariffs, big budgets, inflation, and imperialism. He was
a big supporter of businesses and the gold standard, and vetoed a bailout of Texas farmers--fighting
the Republicans the whole way, including his successors, Benjamin Harrison and William
McKinley, who were just as big-government as their Republican colleagues.
Well, maybe Republicans start seeing the light in the 20th Century. But if they did, it was
certainly after Theodore Roosevelt, who oversaw perhaps the biggest expansion of government
regulation and intrusion into the private market up to that time. And it wasn't William
Howard Taft, either. He increased government spending from $763 million to almost a billion!
It could be said that things were better under Warren G. Harding. His response to the economic
depression he inherited was hands-off, which resulted in a quick recovery. For that reason,
he's hailed as a small government President, probably the last one. But really, when you
look at what happened, it was because the depression was over before his cabinet could
decide on what to do--but they were considering all sorts of new deal-esque programs to try
and fix it. And when you look at everything else he did, you find that he worked for higher
emergency tariffs, more restrictions on immigration, regulation of cable and radio communications,
railroad and agricultural subsidies, and even welfare. However, he did decrease the size
of the Federal government, and not just military spending, and he decreased the deficit as
well. So maybe we can meet the Republicans halfway on Harding. Still, that's only one
president so far.
Well, half.
Calvin Coolidge is also hailed by conservatives as a small government guy. But he was still
big government in many important ways. He continued Harding's policy of immigration
restriction and also interfered in strike talks between businesses and labor unions.
He increased regulation of radio and started government interference in the airline industry.
And while he did decrease the personal income tax, literally at the same time he increased
the estate tax and created a new gift tax. It is true that he kept spending more or less
flat, and decreased the debt, but a lot of that can be credited to the fact that he presided
over a period of economic prosperity (although, in fact, it later turned out to be a bubble
that would lead to the 1929 stock market crash). If we look at his record as governor of Massachusetts
to try and support this idea, we fail. Not only did he preside over massive growth in
the Massachusetts government, he instituted intrusion after intrusion into the economy.
But hey, I'm feeling generous so let's meet the Republicans halfway again.
So, two halfway small government presidents I guess equals one proper small government
president--one out of 11 so far.
Not a very good score!
It doesn't get any better with Hoover. Basically, anyone who says that Hoover had it right and
that FDR went wrong with the New Deal, or that FDR succeeded where Hoover failed, is
just wrong. The two presidents had almost identical policies when it came to the economy
and dealing with the Great Depression. There is virtually no difference between the programs
in FDR's New Deal and the programs Hoover attempted to instate, and since I think we
can all agree that FDR was a big government guy, there's no way that Hoover isn't as well.
He grew Federal spending by $167% and the national debt by 133%.
This brings us to Eisenhower. Like Coolidge, he's credited as a small-government guy, but
again it's only because he happened to preside over a period of economic prosperity--arguably
the only period of genuine prosperity in the 20th Century, one that wasn't just a financial
bubble. He rolled back government only in the sense that the Great Depression and World
War II were finally over, but he expanded the government in almost every other way.
He instituted the interstate highway system, greatly expanded economic aid to foreign countries,
and laid the groundwork for the Vietnam War--excuse me, "police action."
He also used the CIA to instigate coups and assassinations in foreign countries, the most
significant one being the overthrowing of democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammad
Mosaddegh of Iran, and putting the Shah back in power, who ended up being a murderous tyrant.
Pretty much all of our Iran problems since then can be traced back to this one decision.
I really don't see any proper justification for considering Eisenhower a small government
president, but hey, I'm REALLY feeling generous so let's meet them halfway on this one, too.
Now the score is 1.5 out of 13. Gee, do you think we might make it all the way up to two?
The next Republican president was Richard Nixon. This guy was small government like
Ray Comfort is an atheist. Some people credit him with ending the Vietnam War, but his policy
was actually to escalate it, and only sought a resolution after massive public outcry.
He abolished the gold standard, instituted wage and price controls, advocated the Clean
Air Act and the creation of the EPA, and advocated the hideously destructive Title IX. He also
signed into law the HMO Act, increasing government intrusion into health care and making it even
more expensive and inaccessible. Additionally, he entrenched us in the conflict between Israel
and the OPEC countries, which directly led to the 1970s energy crisis. What's more, he
got the ball rolling on the insane War on Drugs. Even without going into the famous
Watergate scandal, this guy was big government through and through.
You could argue that Ford was better, but then, he'd have to be, wouldn't he? Still,
his economic policy was based on the hideously wrong notion of the Keynesians that fixing
inflation would automatically fix unemployment, and in the attempt he made both of them worse."
In a move that will cause many of us to experience deja vu, he reacted to a swine flu epidemic--in
which a strain of H1N1 resulted in ONE death--and instituted a massive vaccination campaign,
causing the vaccine to be hurried through without the proper safety testing. As a result,
the vaccine ended up killing more people than the flu did!
In addition to all that, his administration ran a deficit every single year, which didn't
at all stop him from instigating new programs, including subsidies to schools for handicapped
children and the Human Rights Watch. He got us even more deeply embroiled in the Arab-Israeli
conflict, and although he concluded Nixon's policy of ending the Vietnam War, he continued
to send aid to South Vietnam and spent almost half a billion dollars to help Vietnamese
refugees settle in the US--all things that the Federal government has no constitutional
authority to do.
So now, we come to the Republican president most often hailed by conservatives as a paragon
of smaller government: Ronald Reagan. Are we going to be able to increase the score--which
is now 1.5 out of 15--all the way up to 2? Or even 2.5?
Don't hold your breath!
About the only thing you could say about Reagan that was small-government was that he cut
taxes. But since he DIDN'T cut spending--in fact, he dramatically increased both military
and domestic spending--the only result from that was increased deficits. And he really
didn't cut taxes that much, either; just a small cut over three years. But he also signed
into law what was at the time the largest tax increase in American history--in only
his second year in office!
Under Reagan, total spending increased 157% and the deficit increased by 261%--despite
his promise to balance the budget. Reagan expanded the military by 171%, but he also
expanded the very domestic programs he promised to cut--so much so that domestic spending
rose 152%.
Now, the excuse the conservatives give here was that there was a democratic Congress,
and they were the ones doing all the spending. But it's still the case that every single
budget Reagan submitted to Congress was larger than the one Congress had passed the year
before! And there was only one budget bill that Congress passed over Reagan's veto. So,
where's this smaller government?
It certainly isn't in the hideous and insane War on Drugs, which Reagan reasserted after
Carter softened. This included such anti-freedom big-government concepts as "asset forfeiture,"
where government agents can confiscate your property without so much as charging you with
a crime, in blatant violation of the 5th Amendment, as well as mandatory minimum sentencing, resulting
in long sentences of 20 years or more--even life without parole--for nonviolent drug offenses,
while murderers are set free in less than 10 years.
His other small government promises were empty. For example, he promised to end draft registration;
he didn't even so much as ask Congress to consider it.
Of course, the conservatives cheer that Reagan ended the Cold War by outspending the Soviets.
Oh, really? The Soviet Union fell because they couldn't keep up with the US? How does
THAT make sense? Switzerland couldn't keep up, either. Neither could the UK or China
or New Zealand or Luxembourg. So, why didn't those nations collapse? Their military spending
wasn't anywhere NEAR what the US was!
The rest of his foreign policy wasn't all that great, either. He supported the Mujahedeen
in Afghanistan. He called them "freedom fighters." Today they're called "terrorists." He committed
disastrous invasions in Libya, Lebanon, and Grenada. He supported brutal tyrannical dictators
in many countries and rebel factions in others. It was sheer insanity.
Neither was there any sort of "capitalist revival" during Reagan's administration. Real
median family income only went up 1.4% per year during the Reagan years--whereas the
average of all years, good and bad, from 1947 to 1970 was 2.8%.
No, you don't get an increase in the score for Reagan. I can't even meet you halfway.
The score is now 1.5 out of 16.
And do I really need to go into the Bushes? Just for the sake of giving the numbers, George
H.W. Bush increased spending by 121% and the deficit by 190%, and George W. Bush increased
spending by 160% and deficit spending by 170%.
When we look at the track record of Republican presidents, we find that, even in our most
generous mood, the best score they can get for their devotion to small government is
1.5 out of 18--a measly 8.3%.
Why would anyone in their right mind believe Republicans when they say they're for small
government? When they have participated in growing this bloated, debt-ridden bureaucracy
just as much as Democrats have? The last president we had that was in any real measure devoted
to small, constitutional government was Grover Cleveland--and he was a Democrat!
Okay, you have the exceptions: Ron Paul, Barry Goldwater, Robert Taft...but they're the exceptions,
overshadowed by political blowhards who love paying lip service to small government but
end up being just more big government politicians. As Harry Browne said, Republicans campaign
like Libertarians but rule like Democrats.
What's it going to take until you aren't fooled anymore?