The Myth of Reagan
According to the Fed stats, during Reagans time in office Federal Government spending peaked at 23.46% of GDP and never fell below 21.28%. In contrast, government spending under Bush peaked at 21% , with most of the time spent at 20%.
Also, the federal tax burden under Reagan fell to 17.8% in 1985 from a high of 19.8% when Reagan took office. Under Bush, the burden fell to a low of 16% from a high of nearly 21% in 2000.
The Conventional wisdom was that Bush's tax cuts were small compared to Reagans. These stats say otherwise.
If Bush is such a big spender, then he is only relative to the second half of Clinton's second term and Nixon in the 1960s. Compared to Reagan, Bush is a small government.
UPDATE: If you throw in state and local spending- during Bush's terms, State and local = 13.2% of GDP. Under Reagan, the amount was around 11.5%. Perhaps this is the missing link. However, state and local spending has been increasing at a regular pace. It is not up and down like the federal government. Hmmm...