On the Record

Size of Government

Paul C. Light

Host Bob Edwards talks to Paul Light, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of a new report about the true size of government. Light says claims about the shrinking size of federal government from the last two administrations are misleading. He says traditional figures don’t include the millions of contractors doing government work, and argues the American people should be told the truth about the size of a federal workforce needed to “deliver the promises we make.”

Bob Edwards: The last two Washington administrations have promised to reduce the size of the federal government. President Clinton said as much in his 1996 State of the Union address.

President Clinton (recorded): The era of big government is over!

Bob Edwards: Four years later, George W. Bush championed the same cause when he accepted his party’s nomination for President.

George W. Bush (recorded): Big government is not the answer!

Bob Edwards: A new report about the true size of the federal government says it is a lot bigger than these men have let on.

Bob Edwards: Paul Light authored the annual and unpopular study, funded by the Brookings Institution and New York University.

Paul Light: Every time I release this report, I get hammered by the White House. Basically, presidents don’t like to get caught cheating. They like to tell the public that government is getting smaller and leaner and meaner and more efficient, and then they are shovelling the jobs out through contracts and grants, and those appear nowhere in the federal budget.

Bob Edwards: How big is it? …

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