What do the presidencies of Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump indicate about what Americans want in terms of using government power and the size of government overall? Is there any consistency in what Americans want from their government?

The presidencies of Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump might indicate that Americans want a small government that doesn't interfere in their lives, but one that is big enough to protect them from alleged foreign threats.

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The presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump might indicate that Americans want a small government. In 1996, Bill Clinton declared, “The era of big government is over.” Clinton backed up his statement by cutting welfare. Bush curtailed the federal government by reducing regulations, lowering taxes, and attempting to privatize social security. The next president, Obama, argued, “It's not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government.” Obama demonstrated his inclination toward small government with, according to some pundits, an overly modest stimulus package in 2009. Trump then emphasized small government by cutting taxes and regulations. With regulations, Trump embraced a two-for-one policy. For every new government regulation, two regulations had to go.

Alternately, one could make the case that, for certain issues, Americans want a sizable, powerful government. Following the attacks on September 11th, 2001, Bush, despite his professed belief in small government, expanded the government. He created the Department of Homeland Security, which became the third-largest department of the government. Bush, as with Obama and Trump, ostensibly had the power to launch strikes in foreign countries without consulting Congress. Clinton, before 9/11, seems to have had this power as well. He ordered strikes on Sudan and Iraq. Considering the sweeping powers that the president has when it comes to confronting alleged threats in foreign countries, it’s possible to claim Americans want a government big enough to keep them feeling secure.

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