There is a good (and lengthy) interview with Stanford economist Michael Boskin in today’s SF Chronicle. As the go-to guy for Republicans at the highest levels (and occasionally Democrats too), the piece is worth reading for the perspective (and occasional spin):
Q: The Economist magazine recently wrote: “Mr. Bush has increased spending more than any president since Lyndon Johnson and cut taxes with the enthusiasm of Ronald Reagan.” Is that accurate?
A: It’s probably an exaggeration. Some of this was thrust upon him — the need for homeland security spending, Katrina, some of the terrorism spending. There was a widespread view that we had to rebuild the military.
Still, we’re probably spending too much, on balance. The way I tend to think about these things is to net out needs for temporary expansions and contractions.
Net of that, I think the record on spending is better. The major big expansion has been the addition of the prescription drug program in Medicare. The major alternative was not doing nothing, but a still larger program that the president’s political opponents had proposed.
The drug benefit is large. It has some good reform elements in it. But it was unfunded and will be added to budgetary pressure starting next year. And we’ll have to figure out how to pay for it.