As a libertarian, I so want to believe that the tea party marks the beginning a comeback for small government.
But I'm probably deluding myself. I know that big government usually wins. Remember the last time the Republicans took power? They promised fiscal responsibility, and for six of George W. Bush's eight years, his party controlled Congress. What did we have to show for it?
Federal spending increased by 54 percent. That's more than any president in the last 50 years. Much more than the 12 percent increase under Bill Clinton, and it even beat the 36 percent increase under big spender Lyndon Johnson. The number of subsidy programs grew 30 percent, and the regulatory budget grew 70 percent. The private sector shrank, while the government sector grew by 1.6 million jobs.
Bush and the GOP-controlled Congress created a prescription drug entitlement, the biggest entitlement expansion since Medicare. At one point, he nearly tripled the Department of Education budget.
This time Republicans won't run the whole show. They'll have to deal with a Democratic president and senate. It will be difficult for either side to advance their agenda. In one sense this is a good thing. At least with gridlock they won't continue spending trillions of dollars we don't have. On the other hand, a lot of automatic spending increases are built into the system, so spending will continue to rise in spite of the gridlock, and we won't be seeing any of the spending cuts that Republicans have promised.
Like Stossel, I'm not optimistic.