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Bipartisan big spenders

It takes a lot of nerve for President Bush to call John Kerry a big spender.

The Bush campaign has put a price tag of $2-trillion on Kerry's agenda that includes health care initiatives and middle-class tax cuts. Admittedly, that is a lot of money. Then the Washington Post took a calculator to Bush's Agenda for America that he spelled out in his nomination acceptance speech, and the total cost would be at least $3-trillion. If $2-trillion over the next decade makes Kerry a big-spending liberal, what does $3-trillion make Bush? A hypocrite, at the very least.

Bush wants to privatize a portion of Social Security, which could cost $2-trillion over the next 10 years, and he would make all of his tax cuts permanent, which would add another $1-trillion to the deficit. That doesn't take into account other Bush proposals, such as tax-free savings accounts and job-training programs expected to require tens of billions of dollars more in spending each year. The war in Iraq, at a cost of $4-billion a month, isn't figured into the total, either.

Such unrestrained spending has upset some fiscal conservatives. Bush "is a big-government Republican, and there's no longer even the pretense that he's for smaller government," said Stephen Moore, president of the conservative Club for Growth.

Kerry's numbers don't add up, either. He would end the tax cuts for those making $200,000 or more, but that still isn't likely to pay for his ambitious expansion of health insurance coverage. And while both Kerry and Bush say they will halve the record $422-billion deficit, neither has a clear plan.

When it comes to the deficit that was created during the president's tenure, the Bush campaign has been quiet on the subject. When it does speak, it makes little sense. "Strong economic growth and spending restraint are the way to cut the deficit," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. Yet the economy is in a soft patch of indeterminate length and Bush has yet to veto a spending bill in four years.

Maybe voters can't expect straight talk on spending and the deficit during a presidential campaign, but they shouldn't be treated as fools. If you look at the candidates' agendas and check their records, Bush is the big spender in this race.

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