The GOP - The Party of Small Government?

Nov 28, 2001

The Democratic Party rarely (until Bill Clinton) claimed to be interested in smaller government.  It's actually a relatively new claim for the Republicans as well, and they made it a centerpiece of their campaigns since Reagan.  It's fair, then, to ask if the Republican Party is serious about giving us smaller government. Their track record is spotty at best and they seem always to be snookered by those wily Democrats into voting for ever larger budgets.  So let's ask (and answer) the question: what does it take to get a smaller government?

If we measure the size of government by the Budget (it's certainly a measure of its power) then the question becomes, more simply, what does it take to get a smaller budget?  To answer that we have to know how the Budget 'happens'.

The President puts the Budget together and submits it to Congress.  Congress massages the Budget (perhaps), passes a Budget Resolution, and sends it back to The President to be signed; The President signs the Budget Resolution and orders the Treasury Department's underlings at IRS to collect the revenue specified in the authorizing Budget Resolution.  Balance of Power.  Works like a charm.

Now it could happen that the Congress 'massages' the Budget beyond recognition.  In such a case, The President might veto the Budget Resolution when it arrives back at the White House.  Congress would then have two options: come to an agreement with The President or override the veto.  To override a Presidential veto, 2/3rds of both Houses of Congress must vote to override.  At the moment, that's 67 Senators (out of 100) and 290 Representatives (out of 435). 

Knowing this, we can now frame the question in quantitative terms:  how many elected officials do we need to be able to force small government?

A party which has elected (either) 51 Senators or 218 Representatives or which has elected a President and (either) 34 Senators or 146 Representatives, can force small government.  It works like this:

Now we have enough data to determine whether the GOP is the Party of Small Government or not:

That is, for sixteen of the past twenty years (and maybe more) the GOP has had the power to deliver small government, and didn't do it.

Why should we believe them now?


© Frank Clarke, 2001

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