I've always wondered about the claim that Republican Administrations prefer smaller government, while Democratic ones prefer larger.
This claim just does not ring true to me, so I dug up some numbers. For the purpose of this discussion:
- "Government" = US Federal Government
- "Size of government" is measured in terms of government outlay.
- This outlay is expressed in terms of % of GDP, to account for different values of the dollar, inflation, etc.
- No interest is taken in budget deficits or surpluses, just outlay
Here is a chart of the outlay of the US Federal Government, from 1968 to 2007, as % of GDP:
This was produced from TableF-2 of the spreadsheet available here
Each column of data represents one year.
1969 - 1974 - Richard Nixon - R
1974 - 1977 - Gerald Ford - R
1977 - 1981 - Jimmy Carter - D
1981 - 1989 - Ronald Reagan - R
1989 - 1993 - George H.W. Bush - R
1993 - 2001 - William Clinton - D
2001 - 2007 - George W. Bush - R
So based on these numbers, we can say that the Nixon administration did implement a relatively small government.
Then, starting with Ford and extending all the way through GHW Bush the size of government was relatively large, with the Reagan era particularly
Then starting in 1993 and extending to 2001, we see a declining trend in size of government, which coincides with the Clinton era.
Then in 2001 through 2007 we see the size go back up and hover around the 20% mark.
My conclusion, based on this measurement, is that the Republican party does not
follow through on the claims that they will have a
I am not an economist, nor a statistician, nor do I play either on TV. These numbers are what seemed to me to be a reasonable way to get an idea of
the "size" of the Federal Government, but there may be a fundamental flaw in my reasoning.
But it appears to me that the "smaller government" claim by the Republican party is not supported by the numbers.