http://www.mcclatchydc.com/227/story/20767.html WASHINGTON â George W. Bush, despite all his recent bravado about being an apostle of small government and budget-slashing, is the biggest spending president since Lyndon B. Johnson. In fact, he's arguably an even bigger spender than LBJ. âHeâs a big government guy,â said Stephen Slivinski, the director of budget studies at Cato Institute, a libertarian research group. The numbers are clear, credible and conclusive, added David Keating, the executive director of the Club for Growth, a budget-watchdog group. âHeâs a big spender,â Keating said. âNo question about it.â Take almost any yardstick and Bush generally exceeds the spending of his predecessors. When adjusted for inflation, discretionary spending â or budget items that Congress and the president can control, including defense and domestic programs, but not entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare â shot up at an average annual rate of 5.3 percent during Bushâs first six years, Slivinski calculates. That tops the 4.6 percent annual rate Johnson logged during his 1963-69 presidency. By these standards, Ronald Reagan was a tightwad; discretionary spending grew by only 1.9 percent a year on his watch. Discretionary spending went up in Bush's first term by 48.5 percent, not adjusted for inflation, more than twice as much as Bill Clinton did (21.6 percent) in two full terms, Slivinski reports. Defense spending is the big driver â but hardly the only one. Under Bush it's grown on average by 5.7 percent a year. Under LBJ â who had a war to fund, too â it rose by 4.9 percent a year. Both numbers are adjusted for inflation.