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Let’s return to the golden years of the Clinton presidency

Posted by Richard on March 6, 2014

On Tuesday, President Obama unveiled his Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal, for what it’s worth (not much, according to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, which describes it as “[i]ncomplete, inconclusive, and indecipherable”). He proposes to spend $3.901 trillion (that’s $3,901,000,000,000), almost $1 trillion (33%) more than in 2008. The Obama administration describes this budget as ending the “era of austerity.” The “era of austerity” is apparently FY2012 and FY2013, when actual outlays declined by a whopping 4% from the stimulus-swollen FY2011 level.

Me, I’d rather look back at a different “era.” Remember Bill “the era of big government is over” Clinton? He’s revered by the Socialist Democrats, and his eight years in office are viewed as some kind of golden age. Let’s set the Wayback Machine to FY1999, the last full fiscal year of the Clinton presidency.

Actual FY1999 outlays were $1.702 trillion. According to this price deflator calculator, that’s $2.266 trillion in 2013 dollars. About 42% lower than Obama’s proposed FY2015 budget. Now that’s what I call austerity — or at least a good start.

My memory isn’t what it used to be, but I don’t recall children starving, bridges collapsing, and old people dying in the streets during the Clinton years.

If we had a decent opposition party in this country, it would demand a return to Clinton-era spending levels, adjusted for inflation. Heck, I wouldn’t even mind too much if they threw in an adjustment for the 14% population growth since 1999 (even though there’s no logical reason why all federal spending should rise with population). That would still leave the budget 28% lower than Obama’s proposal.

Actually, it’s pointless spending a lot of time on the Obama budget proposal since it’s going nowhere. The Senate’s Socialist Democrats have already made it clear that they won’t be considering a budget resolution this year. Doing so would force all those vulnerable senators up for reelection to choose between rebuffing their president or going on record supporting higher taxes, more spending, and an ever-growing debt burden. This budget proposal is purely PR and talking points.

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