Lefties are fond of calling Bush a “radical conservative,” complaining that he was (not) elected under dodgy circumstances but has nonetheless governed from the far right. Conservatives protest in response that Bush has raised government spending and indeed, with the passage of the Medicare bill, created the first new federal entitlement in a quarter-century. This demonstrates that he is (depending on the conservative) either a “moderate” or a betrayer of the right.
Both sides have a point in this confused debate. The best article I’ve seen on the subject, the one that cuts to the heart of this issue, is this one by Jonathan Chait. Here’s the money quote:
Last year, the Associated Press conducted a remarkable study showing how federal spending patterns had changed since the GOP took over Congress in 1995. Republicans did not shrink federal spending, it found, they merely transferred it, from poorer Democratic districts to wealthier Republican ones. This, the A.P. reported, “translates into more business loans and farm subsidies, and fewer public housing grants and food stamps.” In 1995, Democratic districts received an average of $35 million more in federal largesse than Republican districts, which seems roughly fair given that Democratic districts have more people in need of government aid. By 2001, the gap had not only reversed, it had increased nearly twentyfold, with GOP districts receiving an average of $612 million more than Democratic ones.
Like the man says: read the whole thing.