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How federal spending has climbed since 2001
Yahoo News/USA Today
By Richard Wolf
April 3, 2006

President Bush and the Republican-led Congress have increased spending substantially since Bush took office in 2001. In those five years, spending has risen faster than at any time since the Vietnam War. Here are eight of the ways that happened:

"We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invite challenge." - President Bush, Jan. 20, 2001

The president came to office pledging to bolster the nation's defenses, and he has kept his word. Spending on defense has risen an average of 8% a year, far surpassing President Reagan's buildup after adjusting for inflation. Most of that money has little to do with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Conservatives such as Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, defend the spending as needed after years of budget cuts under President Clinton. Others say Congress should take a closer look at such large increases. "One wonders what that's used for, if it's not for fighting the war," says Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H.

Leaving no child behind

"We're going to spend more on our schools, and we're going to spend it more wisely." - President Bush upon signing the No Child Left Behind law Jan. 8, 2002

For the past five years, Republicans have increased K-12 education spending by an average of 7% annually. The increase was greatest early in the administration and has declined every year since.

Conservatives, who recall the days when Republicans threatened to abolish the Education Department, decry the new spending. "If Republicans stand for anything, if they stand for limited government at all, they should stand against programs like this," says Cato Institute budget expert Stephen Slivinski. The White House argues it has reduced funding since 2002, and education interest groups agree. "It's like a ski slope - downhill," says Edward Kealy of the Committee for Education Funding.

Protecting the homeland

"My budget nearly doubles funding for a sustained strategy of homeland security."- President Bush, Jan. 29, 2002

Before the Sept. 11 attacks, the federal government spent slightly more than $20 billion annually on homeland security. Since then, the figure has soared to about $50 billion.

"We've increased our security appropriations funding at a truly incredible rate these past few years," says House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, R-Iowa. "And I'd imagine if we had to do it all again, we would."

Many conservatives say homeland security budgets have been bloated by spreading money to small communities that are unlikely terrorist targets and by unrelated projects. Veronique de Rugy, a budget expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, refers to that as "congressional hornswoggling."

Helping recession's victims

"For so many in our country - the homeless and the fatherless, the addicted - the need is great."- President Bush, Jan. 28, 2003

In June of 2003, the nation's unemployment rate hit 6.3%, its highest level during Bush's presidency. The impact of the recession on millions of Americans caused anti-poverty spending to increase, as did outreach efforts and program expansions. Over five years, spending on food stamps has risen 84% and Medicaid 49%.

Pence says that type of spending causes constituents to say, " 'What are you guys doing? You guys are outspending Democrats!' "

This year, Congress trimmed $39 billion over five years from benefit programs. The White House wants to go further "to prevent severe economic and fiscal consequences for our children and grandchildren," says Scott Milburn of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Fighting two wars

"Today, I'm sending the Congress a wartime supplemental appropriations request of $74.7 billion, to fund needs directly arising from the Iraqi conflict and our global war against terror."- President Bush, March 25, 2003

The initial investment for the Iraq war has since grown to nearly $400 billion, though not all that money has been spent. The money has been approved in "supplemental" budgets - without offsetting taxes or spending cuts - and added to the federal deficit.

"We're in a war, and that's expensive," Gregg says. De Rugy says Bush should have made tradeoffs. "He wanted to fight a war, but he wasn't willing to offset the cost of the war by cutting somewhere else," she says.

Creating a drug benefit

"Medicare will pay for prescription drugs, so that fewer seniors will get sick in the first place."- President Bush, Dec. 8, 2003

The new Medicare drug benefit, passed in 2003 and implemented this year, will cost about $797 billion over 10 years. Proponents of the law include fiscal conservatives such as Nussle, who says it "finally updated Medicare to include prescription drugs."

Critics contend it will saddle taxpayers with an additional $8 trillion in unfunded IOUs over 75 years. "As bad as the last five years have been, it's going to get even worse the next five years," says Brian Riedl, a budget expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Serving the nation's veterans

"We have increased funding for our veterans more in four years than the previous administration did in eight years."- President Bush, Aug. 16, 2004

Spending on veterans has increased faster under President Bush than at any time since the Vietnam War. Like homeland security, it is strongly supported by Democrats as well as Republicans.

Among the reasons for the increase: The veterans health care system is adding hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who came from the National Guard and Reserves are eligible for two years of health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. That system was opened up several years ago to veterans with higher incomes whose illnesses or injuries did not stem from their military service. Greater numbers of veterans from prior conflicts have signed up for disability and pension benefits.

Bailing out the Gulf Coast

"Yesterday I signed a $10.5 billion emergency aid package to fund our ongoing relief efforts. This is a down payment on what will be a sustained federal commitment to our fellow citizens along the Gulf Coast."- President Bush, Sept. 3, 2005

The costs of hurricanes Katrina and Rita have reached about $100 billion and are being added to the deficit. Calls from conservatives for spending reductions elsewhere have gone largely unheeded.

"It's our moral obligation to assist our fellow Americans," Milburn says. Former House majority leader Dick Armey, chairman of the conservative interest group FreedomWorks, says such emergency appropriations "become handy little excuses" for the rise in federal spending.

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