Think Republicans Are Bad on Spending? Just Imagine What Democrats Would Do

During this fall’s campaign, a key criticism of the Democrats has been that—unlike the Republicans when they took over the Congress in 1994—they have no agenda. There may be no real Democratic foreign policy agenda (other than to denounce President Bush’s Iraq policy), and domestically, their plans aren’t as comprehensive as the Republicans’ plans 12 years ago. Still, the Democrats aren’t agenda-free, as many are touting what they label “A New Direction for America.”

To the extent that government has been growing under Republican rule, the Democrat plan hardly represents a “new direction.” What it does represent is a lot of new spending. Thanks to a lot of hard work by my colleague Demian Brady (utilizing the BillTally program of the National Taxpayers Union Foundation), we know that this agenda will cost taxpayers at least $790 billion over ten years.

The biggest chunk of this spending program is in health care, where Democrats are proposing almost $290 billion in new spending over the coming decade. At the center of their health care spending spree is Medicare. Despite the fact that Medicare is facing trillions in unfunded liabilities, incredibly, the Democrats are proposing to ramp up spending for this program.

Democrats are also proposing big helpings of new spending in many other areas of the federal government including education, energy, agriculture, homeland security, defense, and veterans’ programs. The Democrats mantra perhaps should be “No Department Left Behind.”

The party’s election agenda certainly is in accord with the agendas of congressional Democrats, who have been promoting a lot of ideas to expand Washington. In a study that NTUF released in August (again utilizing NTUF’s BillTally program), we found that while the typical House Republican had a legislative agenda which would boost the federal budget by a net of $11.6 billion annually, the average House Democrat was proposing expanding the federal government by $547.4 billion annually. On the Senate side, the partisan gap was smaller—$11.4 billion in new spending for the average Republican and $52.1 billion in new spending being proposed by the average Democrat.

Looking back over the past 12 years, clearly, congressional Republicans have hardly been angels on spending. We don’t know what the final numbers of congressionally passed appropriations bills will be, but even if Congress goes no higher than the President’s budget, federal spending for fiscal year 2007 (which began October 1) will be 49% higher than in 2001 (the last Clinton budget).

If the budget situation has been bad during the first six years of the Bush presidency, depending on the results next Tuesday, things could be getting a whole lot worse.