If the GOP is the party of small government, why isn't the government smaller

The past few years of GOP control of both branches of elected federal government have coincided with the growth of the federal government. This seems to falsify GOP claims to be the party of small government. However, this is not the case. The GOP hold on the government was very tenous with very small majorities in the house and senate and the president elected with a popular vote minority initially and relelected with a small majority. This is indicative of a voting populace split almost down the middle between the parties. The results of this split are growing government and growing deficit.
Neither party would like a deficit, but it results as a compromise between the parties. Both parties have a popular part of their agenda and an unpopular one. The GOP has low taxes as the popular part and small government as the unpopular part. The Democrat agenda has the opposite components with big government as the popular part and high taxes as the unpopular part. Both parties are able to pass the popular parts of the agenda, but are too weak to pass the unpopular parts. Thus we get bigger governnment but lower taxes. The deficits are the results even though neither party really wants them. The only way to break out of this equilibrium is for one party to gain a large enough majority of the voters to pass all of its agenda, or for smaller government or higher taxes to become more popular.

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current republicans are not in favor of a small government

It seems highly odd to blame the big government part of the last 6 years on the democrats. The have had really not much power at all, with the republicans in congress. There were no big fights where the republicans tried to cut the size of government in any real way and lost -- they simply didn't try.

I think the real conclusion is that republicans in power like to claim they care about small government, but that's just not true, or at least not enough true to affect spending priorities.

You suggest that the only way to break out is for one party to control everything. That happened twice in the last 30 or so years: the first 6 Bush years, and the first two Clinton years. You should look at spending patterns during those two periods. I think you might be surprised about which party seems to be empirically in favor of big government when it controls both branches, and which party seems to show some spending restraint.

Cherry-picked years

Restrict our attention to years that you picked with a fig leaf excuse, ignoring such major recent pieces of news as the budget battle between the Republican Congress and Clinton, or longer term happenings, such as the expansion of the government's role under Johnson's Great Society and FDR's New Deal? I think not.

I'll grant you that James Buchanan has got government's number and the self-interest of politicians will tend to work against liberty and small government, overpowering any ideological commitments to the contrary. If you can prove it fair and square I might even grant you a surprising reversal between Republicans and Democrats. But not when you ask me to ignore all but a tiny chunk of American history in order for you to make your point.

Generous Consideration

If you give the benefit of the doubt to what Republicans say about what they want within the programs that they push for as well as looking at bills and amendments that have not passed, you'll see that some Republicans including Bush have pushed in a direction toward smaller government, without much luck.

For example Bush's Medicare plan, NCLB and Social Security plan (which did not pass) all had privateization components that if taken to the fullest suggested would have considerably reduced the public outlays on the programs in later years (even while the short term required an expansion).

This isn't to say that I entirely disagree that its often more rhetoric than agenda. The fact that they still think the rhetoric is necessary is hopeful though.