Teddy's Dream Is America's Nightmare

Following the Christmas Eve passage of the Senate Democrats' health care reform bill, Harry Reid said, “This vote brings us one step closer to making Ted Kennedy’s dream a reality.” Many Americans would contrastingly characterize the potential passage and implementation of this legislation as more of a nightmare. But one thing on which both critics and supporters of ObamaCare may be able to agree is that invoking the name of the late senator from Massachusetts in connection with the passage of a piece of legislation as incompatible with free-market principles and notions of individual liberty as ObamaCare is altogether fitting and proper.

While campaigning against Kennedy in the spring of 1980, then-President Jimmy Carter stated that “Senator Kennedy is well known as the largest spender perhaps in the history of the United States Senate.” Though Carter’s statement was made thirty years ago and nearly three decades prior to Kennedy’s death, it is hard to improve on it in describing Kennedy’s affinity for big government.

According to the National Taxpayers Union's BillTally, which tracks the amount of spending proposed by members of Congress via the bills they sponsor or cosponsor, no one serving for more than two years in the Senate from 2001 to 2008 proposed more spending than Ted Kennedy. During those dreaded “last eight years,” no senator was more willing to part with the generous -- though involuntary -- donations of American taxpayers to the U.S. Treasury than Kennedy.

According to BillTally, at least 1.9 trillion dollars would have been added to the federal deficit had all of the legislation that Kennedy sponsored or cosponsored during the Bush years passed. Kennedy’s average proposed net spending totals per year were over four and a half times the average for senators who had served in at least three of these four Congresses, and Kennedy managed to propose 41 percent more spending than the second biggest spender in the Senate during this period, West Virginia’s Jay Rockefeller.

Though Republicans have taken a lot of heat for their spending habits over this period and deservedly so, it is important to note that no Republican senator came close to Kennedy’s proposed spending totals during this period. In the 107th Congress (2001 – 2002) Texas’ John Cornyn managed to propose more spending than Kennedy (ranking one spot higher than Kennedy for that Congress), but he was the only Republican senator in any of these four Congresses to do so. Though Olympia Snowe’s total proposed spending figure for this period of 392 billion dollars is anything but admirable, it pales in comparison to the liberal lion’s breathtaking total of nearly 2 trillion dollars.