Yesterday, Paul Ryan, Republican Chairman of the House Budget Committee, unveiled his plan that would balance the federal budget within one decade. Considering that the nation’s debt (not including the huge future cost of major entitlement programs) is now approaching $17 trillion, one might think political leaders in Washington, D.C. would consider such a proposal. On the Democratic side of the aisle, however, there is no interest whatsoever in taking such a constructive approach.
Democrats in both houses of the Congress and the Obama Administration, along with many media-based pundits, began to loudly criticize the Ryan proposal even before it was presented. They whine that it is soft on some details and that it -- Heaven forbid -- focuses on spending cuts as the preferred way tobalance the budget rather than revenue enhancements (also known as “tax increases”).
Instead of wailing and gnashing of fiscal teeth, Congress and the President ought to be heaving a sigh of relief and heaping kudos on the former vice-presidential nominee, for doing what they collectively and separately have failed to accomplish. The young Congressman from Wisconsin actually put together a thoughtful, substantive and comprehensive budget. But, of course, Washington does not operate with the same logical, problem-solving approach as a business; according to which a proposal would be viewed as a starting point from which to construct a final solution.
In the deeply partisan environment prevailing today in our nation’s capital, a real plan such as Ryan’s is savaged by the other party for every manner of reason; with no effort to, or interest in, working toward an ultimate solution.
Opponents howl that Ryan’s plan slashes government spending so deeply it would -- if enacted -- essentially doom America to a lengthy and massive depression. Yet, if viewed for what it actually is -- a budget providing for a rate of increase in federal spending at a historically healthy 3.4 percent -- the plan envisions robust federal outlays more than sufficient to avoid economic calamity. Indeed, rather than a miserly budget plan causing America’s children to languish in bread lines, Ryan’s budget proposes federal spending of $41 trillion over the next decade -- hardly a draconian approach to budgeting.
Fundamentally, Ryan’s budget recognizes the reality President Obama and his Democratic colleagues in the Congress absolutely refuse to acknowledge: We do have a spending problem. It then proposes what is to the Democrats, unthinkable: reducing spending rather than increasing taxes. The Democrats’ blind and absolute adherence to a philosophy of addressing the budget deficit by seeking ways to increase revenues (“taxes”) thus leads Obama’s Party to refuse to even consider Ryan’s proposal as a collection of ideas from which to negotiate; to them, it is seen as nothing more than an infected bed sheet during the Black Plague -- something to be burned and buried.
Some among the chattering class have been quick to reject the Ryan proposal because it does not address in detail every aspect of the federal budget morass that has given us $1.0 trillion-plus deficits every year in which this president has been in office. Of course, had Ryan’s initial plan, as unveiled yesterday, included every detail of an overhaul of our current income tax and entitlement systems -- systems Rube Goldberg would be proud to claim as his own -- the congressman’s detractors would have scoffed that the plan was “too complex” to work.
Central, of course, to the Democrats’ knee-jerk rejection of the Ryan plan is that it contemplates and incorporates an approach to healthcare reform fully at odds with the sacred cow that is “ObamaCare.” This alone dooms the plan to the graveyard into which that political party throws any proposal founded on the notion of individual choice rather than government mandate.
Hopefully, Republicans in the Congress -- including the leadership -- will run with the Ryan Plan. It is worthy of adoption not because every member and every faction within the GOP agrees with its every element; rather, the plan should be employed as a visible and strong framework with which to construct for the American people a workable, balanced federal budget within a realistic timeframe that also incorporates vital reforms of the myriad government programs that have been permitted to grow uncontrollably and led us to the brink of fiscal collapse.
Paul Ryan has teed up a worthy proposal; let’s now see if the GOP hits it down the fairway or whiffs it.