Bumper sticker attached to a trash can:
"Work harder. Democrats want to spend your money!"
While this does capture a certain mood in this great country, it is perhaps a bit one-sided. The spending urge is among our most bipartisan instincts. If anything, over the last 30 years Democrats have been more fiscally responsible, since at least “tax and spend” is more logical than “don’t tax and spend any way!”
Need proof? Here’s a graph of debt growth by presidential era since World War II:
In general, debt has grown faster in Republican eras than Democratic ones. There are many reasons for this, but the fact remains the same. (Obama will increase the debt much more than most recent presidents have, rebalancing this observation somewhat.)
And all in all, it’s not that hard to explain: presidents promote programs that neither they nor Congress wish to increase taxes to pay for, or to cut other programs to pay for. For Reagan, it was defense; for Bush II it was tax cuts, two wars and prescription medication for seniors; for Obama it’s two wars, tax cuts, and the stimulus. So we borrow.
The math isn’t hard, people: you can pay for the government you have (with tax increases), or you can have the government you pay for (with program cuts). The third way—borrow the difference between wants and willingness to pay—is the easier option, and so it’s the one pretty much everyone has taken for the last 80 years—with the last 30 being particularly intense examples of the practice:
Grow up, America. There’s no free lunch. The government way is taxes; the libertarian way is fees: in either case, you pay.