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Spending growth upsets conservatives
Federal outlays jumped by $222 billion in President Bush’s first two years, a spending increase that is expected to accelerate under the administration-backed $400 billion prescription-drug bill that is speeding through Congress.
Much of the spending increases have been for defense and the war on terrorism at home and abroad, according to White House and congressional budget analysts.
The two-year increases represent 1 percent of the economy’s annual gross domestic product, four-tenths of which was devoted to national security.
But outside spending critics, and even some officials within the administration, still say overall spending is rising too fast and that the Medicare bill to subsidize prescription-drug costs for the elderly will substantially expand the size and scope of government.
“Spending of all sorts is rising at a very rapid rate I figure that discretionary spending was up by more than 15 percent this year. That’s a pretty good clip,” said Robert Reischauer, former director of the Congressional Budget Office.
Overall annual spending under Mr. Bush over the past two years has gone from $1.789 trillion in fiscal 2000 to $2.011 trillion in 2002, according to congressional budget officials.
The White House projects that spending will rise to $2.2 trillion in the 2004 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
But budget officials say those dollar amounts do not fully measure the growth in spending. They prefer to measure spending increases as a percentage of the total size of the economy, or its gross domestic product. In 2000, President Clinton’s last year in office, total outlays accounted for 18.4 percent of the GDP. By 2002, the budget consumed 19.5 percent of the GDP.
A large chunk of overall spending increases was for national defense, which rose from 3 percent to 3.4 percent of GDP and now totals nearly $400 billion.
“Spending has gone up roughly a full percentage point of GDP under Bush. And about four-tenths of a percentage point is in national defense alone,” a senior House budget official said.
Democrats have been loudly complaining that domestic social welfare spending has been cut under the Bush administration.
But congressional budget officials say that over the past two years such spending for education, job training, unemployment assistance, Medicare, Social Security, veterans benefits, food stamps and other “human resources” has risen from 11.5 percent of GDP to 12.7 percent.
The impending prescription drug bill, with its huge 10-year price tag and the historical trend that Medicare entitlement costs outpace the initial predictions, has prompted a round of worries abouy Bush administration spending.
The prescription-drug bill “won’t break the budget, but it sure is not going to help any,” said a dismayed administration official on the condition of anonymity.
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