The Myth of Smaller Government

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posted on Sep, 5 2008 @ 05:51 PM
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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.

For reference:
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

Source

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 so.

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 "smaller government".

Caveat:

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.




posted on Sep, 5 2008 @ 07:28 PM
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Interesting information. Nice chart!


Another way I think of "Big Government" is how much they control the populace. Several ways they do this are:

The War on Drugs

Big government controls which drugs are ok to take (even though some are quite harmful) and which drugs NOT to take (even though some are quite harmless).

Who Can Marry

Big government makes their way into bedrooms across the country and insinuates THEIR ideas of marriage upon the people there. If the people have different parts, the government allows them to marry. But if they have the same parts, the government doesn't allow a marriage.

Reproductive Rights

Big government also makes their way into wombs across the country and insinuates THEIR opinions upon the happenings there, when it should be a private matter between a woman and her God.

War on Terror

Not only does Big government control the people of THIS country, they are now spreading to other countries to control the people and governments there. They insinuate themselves into our lives under the guise of "Homeland Security" and infringe on the rights and freedoms of the people in the name of our safety.

Principals and Values

Big government tries to dictate its morals and values to me from what religion is "acceptable" to what constitutes a "family" to how my children should be educated to how I should show my patriotism.

These are all ideals of a Republican Government. At least the Republican government of late. I think a smaller government takes care of the people. It's there when the people need it. And a large government imposes on and controls the people. I think that's the big difference for me.



posted on Sep, 5 2008 @ 08:00 PM
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reply to post by Benevolent Heretic
 

When the Republicans talk about "smaller government" they're talking about eliminating social programs, especially programs for the poor: Social Security, Social Security disability, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans' benefits, food samps, welfare, etc. They also don't want any legislation that would control the ownership or use of guns.

When they do administer such social programs they exert an iron hand on the recipients, who after all must be bad people. I recently had a thread about an article I read in which a woman on welfare somehow managed to save $3,000 of her small benefits and was promptly charged with welfare fraud. If she could manage to save that amount of money, the reasoning went, she didn't need the money and must be cheating. The court took her $3,000 and she had to promise never to save money again in order to keep her benefits.

A surprising number of respondents agreed with the welfare agency. I thought Benjamin Franklin (someone Republicans ostensibly would endorse) said "A penny saved is a penny earned," but I guess not if you're poor.

Now that's "big government."

[edit on 5-9-2008 by Sestias]



posted on Sep, 5 2008 @ 11:52 PM
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Originally posted by Open_Minded Skeptic
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 so.


I believe this increase in %of GDP going to 'government' in the Reagan administration coincides with the vast increase in military spending in that era. Don't forget the Gulf War brought to you during HW's administration.


Then starting in 1993 and extending to 2001, we see a declining trend in size of government, which coincides with the Clinton era.


Then the Clinton Administration closed bases and slashed military budgets, causing the % of GDP going to the military arm of government to decline, despite operations in Bosnia and Somalia.


Then in 2001 through 2007 we see the size go back up and hover around the 20% mark.

You guessed it: military spending back up. Plus, Homeland Security and all its financial implications, not to mention the projects we don't even know about that resulted from 9/11. Oh, and the war(s).


My conclusion, based on this measurement, is that the Republican party does not follow through on the claims that they will have a "smaller government".

But it appears to me that the "smaller government" claim by the Republican party is not supported by the numbers.


You are correct. Republicans only call themselves 'conservative' to get votes. They're just as big of wasters of cash as Democrats, if not worse. They just like to spend it on differnt things, as the poster above me has suggested. (Though I'm not really sure what an affinity for the 2nd ammendment has to do with fiscal responsibility.)

Of course there are a few who actually do stay true to conservative principles but for the most part, to use your idiom, Republicans aren't conservatives, they just play them on tv.



posted on Sep, 6 2008 @ 08:30 AM
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reply to post by sc2099
 


Yeah, that's been my hypothesis - that neither Republicans nor Democrats really want a "small" government. The data shows that, at least measured in terms of outlay, they are not dramatically different... even the difference between Nixon and Clinton who were about the same, and the peak of the Reagan era isn't as large as I had expected.

So it looks like neither party wants a small federal government, they just spend money on different priorities.



posted on Sep, 6 2008 @ 12:34 PM
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reply to post by sc2099
 


The military did not want all those bases open. They were in the process of restructuring and changing many of the missions for the bases. Congress did not want any of their bases to close, and it caused a lot of friction. The military wanted 35% of the bases closed, and had less than 25% closed. Many of the "closed" bases were transferred to guard or reserve units. Do not blame this on Pres. Clinton, as the JCS and the DOD wanted this. The bases cost a lot of money to run, and after the Cold War, many did not have a function. I served on a couple of Cold War bases, and their prime missions was to have bombers with nuclear warheads "ready" at a moments' notice. Without an enemy to bomb, they lost their missions almost overnight.

I thought this would help clear up why the bases closed.

BTW, the military would like to close more bases, but Congress won't let them.



posted on Sep, 6 2008 @ 12:42 PM
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reply to post by Open_Minded Skeptic
 


The trends show very little movement when one looks at them. While there is some differences, they are smaller than what one would think. There are also trends not shown, and that is the spending on the war in Iraq, which for some reason does not get included in the budget. Also, Congress dips into Social Security to pay for some of their dearest programs. That isn't shown either.

Earmarks will always be here, and when I was in Louisiana, one of the political commercials was for all the projects the US Representative had brought home. This same Congressman also ran ads against earmarks and pork! Talk about having the cake, eating it and bringing some home! To you it is an earmark or pork, to the constituents who are receiving, it is their Congressman doing his job. If he doesn't bring home the bacon, he is out of a job.





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