Friday night topic: Can government shrink?


— 5:34 PM on November 11, 2005

"The era of big government is over," Bill Clinton famously declared in the wake of the so-called Republican Revolution of 1994. Since then, the Republicans have expanded and firmed up their political power, but the size of government has grown. Indeed, the Republican Congress has overseen record levels of government spending, passing a number pork-laden appropriations bills with little resitance and nary a veto by Bush throughout his tenure. This week, Republican leaders delayed a vote on a bill that would cut a spending by $50 billion, a relatively miniscule portion of the federal budget, citing lack of support.

The Republican party appears to have betrayed one of the most central tenets of the conservative movement that swept it into power. But is there really any chance, given the realities of modern life and the structure of our political system, for the size of government to shrink substantially? Can you envision federal spending being reduced by, say, 30% as a percentage of GDP? Or is the small-government talk just pie-in-the-sky idealism with no real prospects? Discuss.

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