Almost every president of the last 40 years has called for shrinking or streamlining the federal bureaucracy. Think of President Reagan saying at his first inauguration, “Government is not the solution, government is the problem,” or President Clinton vowing in 1996, “The era of big government is over.”

Even more recently, President Obama said in January 2012, “I’m calling on Congress to streamline and reform the executive branch.”

Many have tried. None has succeeded.

“The government is far larger than it ever has been. The debt is growing at record rates,” Thomas Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, said.

Adjusted for inflation, federal spending has gone up from an average of $882 billion every year in the 1980s to $1.48 trillion a year in the ’90s to $2.44 trillion a year in the first decade of the 21st century. It’s estimated that the government will have spent as much in the first four years of the new decade as it did in all of the 1990s.