(I’d like to state that what is written in this post is just some rambling on a morning where I haven’t gotten enough sleep. Any flaws in grammar or logic should be considered with that in mind)
From what I’ve observed in my lifetime the most fiscally conservative our nation has been was during the last six years of the Clinton administration. Despite this the Democrats can’t lay claim to being the nation’s fiscal conservatives since what spurred Clinton’s conservatism was the Republicans taking control of Congress in 1994. This led to some knockdown-drag out fights between Clinton and the Republicans (anybody remember the Government shutdowns in 95’ and 96’?) but in the end these skirmishes helped result in balanced budgets and eventually a surplus (admittedly other things also played a role in creating the surplus, however the legislation passed at the time certainly was a large factor).
In the years since Clinton we’ve predominantly had the White House and Congress controlled by Republicans. As a result spending has spiraled out of control and 2 things have disappeared, the surplus and most of the political gridlock. While we hear all the time that the nation is more polarized than ever this has not translated into the same amount of gridlock as we had in the mid 90’s (possibly the only issue that has created the amount of fervor seen in the 90’s has been the filibuster issue regarding Supreme Court Justice nominations). Basically Bush has acted as a rubber stamp, using his veto only once on legislation, no matter what spending was attached to a bill.
At the end of the day the gridlock of the mid 90’s didn’t insure fiscally conservative governance, but was likely just a side effect of having a better balance of power within our government. The recent centralization of power within one party has probably played the biggest role in squandering the country’s financial security. In the end I don’t think it matters which party has control of the White House, just so long as the other party is in control of the Congress.