Are Republicans Phony Fiscal Conservatives?

When I meet candidates I ask them a direct question: “What spending would you cut?”

Mostly I meet Republican candidates who say they support small government, so you’d think they’d have some answers. Instead I usually hear crickets chirping.

Yesterday I met a couple Republican candidates for state legislature. One said she’d eliminate the EPA. This is a phony answer. The EPA is a federal agency and the Florida legislature has no power over it.

The other one remembered me from a previous event when he had no answer. Last night he told me that he’d thought about it and he does have an answer: he’d cut fraud and abuse. Waste is another one that’s often used in this kind of answer. It’s phony. Find me a candidate, even a Democrat, who says they support fraud, waste and abuse. Okay, besides Charlie Rangel.

When I ran for Governor of New York, I actually read the state budget. It’s a doozy. And then I proposed real spending cuts, eliminating departments and agencies. You can read some of what I proposed here: Redlich New York State Cuts. I also proposed caps on public sector pay and pensions, which was a central theme of the campaign. Of course my favorite Republican, Ron Paul, also proposes real spending cuts in his Plan to Restore America.

The history of government spending under GOP heroes shows how phony the Republican Party is on this issue. Many Republicans invoke Ronald Reagan as their model. How did he really do?

That’s right. Ronald Reagan increased federal spending. In 1980, the year before he took office, the federal government spent about $600 billion. In 1989, the year of his final budget, the federal government spent $1.14 Trillion. That’s an increase of 93% in 9 years, or over 10% a year.

The budgets, as proposed, are here in pdf format: 1980 Budget   1989 Budget.

The numbers in the proposed budgets are slightly different but either way spending increased dramatically under President Reagan.

Consider spending under another supposedly great Republican, former New York Governor George Pataki.

The year before Pataki took office, NYS spent $52 billion. In his last budget, the state spent just over $100 billion. That’s a 92% increase in 12 years, or roughly 8% a year. You can look at numbers like this for Rick Perry’s time in Texas, Gingrich’s time as Speaker of the House, or Mitt Romney’s in Massachusetts, and you’ll see roughly the same thing. They all increased spending.

Just recently in New York, state assemblyman George Amedore posted a note on Facebook talking about the new budget. The line that got me was this: “Holds the line on spending at two percent.”

A 2% increase in spending is not holding the line. That would be a zero percent increase. Of course a 2% increase is better than an 8% increase. But it’s still not enough.

I’ve met George and like him. That’s true of the other candidates I met recently – most candidates are likeable. But that doesn’t cut it. We voters, Republican, Democrat or other, should demand more of candidates.

Every one of us, every time we meet a candidate, this is the question we should ask: “What spending will you cut?”


  1. George Pataki nearly doubled my salary while Governor. I would elect him King of the World. I would suspect most in elected office understand this concept and that is why they brag about limiting the increase, they want the beneficiaries of the increased spending to re-elect them.

  2. Thanks for a well-researched and well-written article. I agree with your question completely.

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