Thursday, September 22, 2005

W as LBJ: ranking the great presidents

For the last five years the repeated theme of much of the national newsmedia has been W as "radical conservative", "conservative ideologue"--a heartless right-winger eager to throw poor people out in the snow. I've been trying for some time to point out that there is not much conservative--at least in any traditional sense of the word conservative--about W...it's been clear for some time that he has little in common with Barry Goldwater, but a lot in common with the last Texan president: LBJ.

The hard data has now been generated over at AEI:

In terms of inflation-adjusted domestic discretionary spending:

LBJ............+34%
Nixon.........+23
Carter........+8
Reagan 1....-10
Reagan 2....+0.2
Bush 41......+14
Clinton 1.....+0.7
Clinton 2.....+14
Bush 43......+25

So if a willingness to expand domestic spending is what constitutes a great president, a man of compassion, a leader committed to social justice, the rankings would be:

LBJ...........+34
Bush 43.....+25
Nixon........+23
Clinton 2....+14
Bush 41.....+14
Carter.......+8
Clinton 1.....+0.7
Reagan 2....+0.2
Reagan 1....-10

It's a good lesson in how little American political rhetoric as to do with reality. Only one president has actually cut domestic spending in real terms in the last generation: Reagan, and only in his first term. Meanwhile, the biggest spenders have been LBJ, W, and Nixon. It must be some kind of political joke that Nixon and W--the two presidents that the American left has hated with the deepest viciousness and intensity--are precisely the two with the biggest domestic spending records.

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