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Wednesday, April 23, 2008 08:35 am

Big-spending George

Bush makes LBJ look like a fiscal conservative

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Untitled Document George W. Bush likes to pose as the Texas president — in the rough-hewn, rancher model of Lyndon Baines Johnson. However, Bush isn’t actually a Texan — he was born in Connecticut, went to an East Coast prep school, attended Yale, and summered in Kennebunkport at his family’s oceanfront estate. Nor is he a rancher, as LBJ was. Yes, Bush bought a ranchette when he decided to run for president, but this “cowboy” has no cattle and is afraid of horses. Yet there is one area where Bush has stood taller than the real Texas president: federal spending. LBJ was derided as a big-spending liberal, but he was tight-fisted compared with the current president. Bush is trying to pretend that he’s a small-government fiscal conservative, but federal spending in his administration has grown by 5.3 percent a year, nearly a full point higher than the rate of increase in the Johnson years and more than double the annual spending growth under Democrats Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Of course, the White House is trying to blame the billions of dollars that it’s dumping into his “war on terrorism” for distorting Bush’s spending numbers (perhaps the Bushites don’t remember that LBJ had a war to finance, too, because so few of them actually served in it). But Bush spending is not just about his mismanaged wars. He has also hiked budgets in most agencies, with a disproportionate share of the increases going to privatization of government, corporate welfare, and right-wing ideological boondoggles. When free-spending Bush poses as Mr. Frugal and demands that Congress hold the line on spending, remember that no president has spent so much and more of your tax dollars and gotten so little for it as he has.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.