Monday, December 17, 2012

War hawks and Socialists - part one of three

“The War hawks controlling Washington are bankrupting our country!”
“The Socialists controlling Washington are bankrupting our country!”

Despite the claims of partisan media, does a Republican government appreciably increase defense spending, and does a Democratic government appreciably increase welfare spending?

In the chart below, the red and blue shading represents party control of the House, the Senate, and the Presidency.  (The white space from 2001-2002 represents an even split in the Senate.)

The red line represents the total of section 050 of the federal budget – National Defense.

Welfare spending is a bit more difficult to discern.  There is no “welfare” line item within the federal budget, and the debate on what exactly constitutes welfare spending could fill a Ph.D. dissertation.  Although estimates range, the blue line represents the total of housing assistance, food assistance, and other income security – sections 604, 605, and 609 of the federal budget.  These three line items within the “Income Security” subsection refer to programs that provide direct assistance to the poor, but differ from programs like unemployment and disability where qualification depends on some previous contribution.

It’s tempting to associate the 2001 spike in Defense spending with the Republican monopoly in Washington, but the start of the War on Terror is probably a much more likely cause.  It’s similarly tempting to associate the 2007 increase in welfare spending with the Democratic control of Congress, but again, the housing bubble burst / market retreat is likely a better suspect.

The mathematically derived correlations are all very low – but the data shows that the level of Democratic control in the government has a weak negative correlation on BOTH defense spending and welfare spending (with an ever so slight preference for defense).  The level of Republican control in the governments has a weak positive correlation on both defense spending and welfare spending (with an ever so slight preference for welfare).

Talk about an unexpected result…

I am not suggesting every stereotype ever associated with our two-party system is incorrect; there are limitations to this data, and the correlations demonstrated are weak.  What I am suggesting is that the partisan media greatly exaggerates the effect on the federal budget from the “republicans versus democrats” ideology conflict.

(click on image to enlarge)

Correlation Dem to Welfare -0.31651
Correlation Dem to Defense -0.30328
Correlation Rep to Welfare         0.30703
Correlation Rep to Defense 0.30640

Data Sources:
Budget data
GDP data
Unemployment data
Party data

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