October 3, 2005


The 'good news' we are missing (Michael Barone, 10/04/05, CS Monitor)

Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution" was as inspiring an example of people power as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Libya has dismantled its weapons of mass destruction. Egypt, by far the largest Arab nation, had its first contested election this month, and, as the Washington Post's David Ignatius writes from Cairo, "the power of the reform movement in the Arab world today ... is potent because it's coming from the Arab societies themselves and not just from democracy enthusiasts in Washington."

Which is evidence that Mr. Bush was right: Muslims and Arabs, like people everywhere, want liberty and self-rule. Afghanistan has just voted, and Iraq is about to vote a second time this year. Violence continues, but the more important story is that democracy and freedom are advancing. [...]

Polls show that most Americans think the economy is in dreadful shape, even though almost all the numbers are good: Inflation and unemployment are low, and growth is robust despite the exogenous shocks of Sept. 11 and Katrina. After a generation of almost constant low-inflation economic growth, perhaps we Americans are only satisfied when we have bubble growth, as in the late 1990s, and are unimpressed when the American economy proves once again to be amazingly resilient.

This is all the more astonishing when you consider that we are going through a time of increased competition and change, as China and India, with 37 percent of the world's population, are transforming their economies from third world to first world. Such a large proportion of mankind moving rapidly upward has never happened before and will never happen again.

Couple this with the facts that Japan seems to be growing again, after 15 years of deflation, that East Asia and Eastern Europe continue to grow robustly, and that major Latin countries like Mexico and Brazil are growing as well, and the economic picture around the world looks pretty good, despite nongrowth in Western Europe and continued poverty in Africa.

Yeah, but Federal spending is all the way up to 85% of what it was under Ronald Reagan....

Wanna see a country with actual problems? Try to figure out this headline, France's jobless recovery stalls (BBC, 9/30/05)

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 3, 2005 6:24 PM

Germany's unemployment isn't looking so great either, whoever finally manages to become chancellor.

Posted by: kevin whited at October 3, 2005 10:15 PM

Aren't Dominique de Villepin's 100 days about up? I thought he had the answer to all of France's economic problems (he said he did).

Posted by: jd watson [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2005 11:05 PM

I find the rantings of the conservative commentators amusing as well as ill-informed. For a group that considers itself to be reality-based, these folks are remarkably clueless as to the actual situation, no less than the leftists and Commie-apologists.

The best example of my contention is the constant drumbeat from the right that Bush is the Great Spender (I had a brief exchange with Jonah Goldberg of NRO Corner regarding this. I did not hear from him after I presented him with the numbers below. Maybe I should not confuse these journo-types, whether liberal or conservative, with numbers.) Here are the federal expenditures during the tenure of each president since 1962, based on CBO figures for the past 42 years (1962-2004):

President - Inc. in Fed Exp - Percent Inc. - Annual Avg. % Inc. - Avg. Public Debt as % of GDP

Johnson 65 55 % 9.2 % 37 %
Nixon 149 81 % 13.6 % 27 %
Ford 77 23 % 11.6 % 27 %
Carter 269 66 % 16.4 % 26 %
Reagan 465 69 % 8.6 % 38 %
Bush I 266 23 % 5.8 % 47 %
Clinton 454 32 % 4.0 % 42 %
Bush II 429 23 % 4.6 % 36 %

Posted by: sam at October 3, 2005 11:55 PM

Also, forgot to mention in the earlier post that there has not been ONE SINGLE YEAR in the period (1962-2004) when the federal expenditure has been less than the prior year. Talk about reality.

Posted by: sam at October 4, 2005 12:02 AM

Isn't the conservative movement concerned with actually cutting spending (and the size of government) instead of throwing its' hands up and saying, "Oh well, at least the rate of increase isn't as bad as it could be" ?

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at October 4, 2005 6:59 AM


Why? Spending isn't bad in the abstract.

Posted by: oj at October 4, 2005 7:41 AM


The absolute numbers are pretty meaningless. What's revealing is to look at the % of GDP we spend, which has fluctuated within a reasonably narrow range since 1962 --17% to 23% -- and is towards the low end of that range now, despite our being at war and the built-in increases in entitlement spending.


There just isn't any meaningful spending to cut.

Posted by: oj at October 4, 2005 7:51 AM

Public spending generally wastes money raised via taxation that would be more profitably employed by private individuals.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at October 4, 2005 8:13 AM


"Milton Friedman: I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible. The reason I am is because I believe THE BIG PROBLEM IS NOT TAXES, THE BIG PROBLEM IS SPENDING. The question is, "How do you hold down government spending?" Government spending now amounts to close to 40% of national income not counting indirect spending through regulation and the like. If you include that, you get up to roughly half. The real danger we face is that number will creep up and up and up. The only effective way I think to hold it down, is to hold down the amount of income the government has. The way to do that is to cut taxes"

Milton Friedman: What we should consider and what has been considered is a Tax And Spending Limitation Amendment, an amendment to hold down total spending.

Some Conservatives think the problem is spending

Posted by: h-man at October 4, 2005 8:17 AM


Yes, but that's not federal spending and we don't even pay for all of federal spending.

Posted by: oj at October 4, 2005 8:24 AM


No, it wouldn't. The public, left on its own, won't provide the safety net it demands as soon as it needs one. Government is going to remain big forever in order to guarantee that net. It does make sense though to transition to a system where government mandates that you provide your own, basically privatized big government.

Posted by: oj at October 4, 2005 8:26 AM


I agree with Friedman, but I wish a GOP that had control of both Congress and the Presidency would be a little more ambitious.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at October 4, 2005 8:31 AM

I agree with OJ. The argument of big versus small government is over, with big government the winner. The argument now is over the mechanics of distributing the funds.

Posted by: Rick T. at October 4, 2005 10:25 AM

The purpose of conservatives is to defend the achievements of the last generation's liberals. I wonder what liberal policies today conservatives 50 years from now will protect? Probably some form of environmentalism.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at October 4, 2005 11:50 AM

Nah, same-sex marriage. That'll give Orrin's grandkids a chance to really piss the old fossil off when they get their own blogs.

Posted by: joe shropshire at October 4, 2005 12:10 PM


Certainly environmentalism is a natural issues for Christians and therefore for the Republican Party.

Posted by: oj at October 4, 2005 12:14 PM

How much of our spending is involved with war/military expenses?

Posted by: Franz at October 4, 2005 12:34 PM


Comparatively little in historical terms--somewhere over 4% of GDP compared to an average over 6% throughout the Cold War.

Posted by: oj at October 4, 2005 12:43 PM