“I place economy among the first and most important virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers to be feared,” Thomas Jefferson once wrote. “To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.”
Fast forward to 2012, and the notion of “perpetual debt” is no longer a condition to be avoided. It’s a reality we must confront -- a crisis we must solve. This is especially true because, as Jefferson warned, our very liberty is at stake if we fail to do so.
Remember the clash on Capitol Hill last year over raising the debt ceiling? It may have seemed like a huge battle at the time, but it was merely a holding action -- a rear-guard maneuver to buy a little time. Because which direction has federal spending gone since then? Up, of course, soaring toward new record levels and endangering our economic future. We can’t put off the day of reckoning forever.
Fortunately, some members of Congress get it, such as Rep. Paul Ryan (R–Wisc.), chairman of House Budget Committee. He recently came to speak at The Heritage Foundation about his proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2013. Titled The Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal, it does something too many budget plans fail to do: face reality, and propose some sensible solutions.
It’s not perfect, but there’s much to like. Ryan’s budget would roll back the spending excesses of the past, tackle entitlement programs, and make defense a priority. This may sound like common sense, but many lawmakers seem content to make meaningless trims, not serious cuts. They act as if we can allow Social Security and Medicare spending to continue growing -- and growing -- on autopilot. They seriously think we can slash defense spending, yet continue fielding a world-class military.
And they focus on the “revenue side” of the ledger. The problem, they insist, is that not enough tax money is coming in. The fact that public debt, at current spending rates, is set to be as big as the U.S. economy itself by 2023 (just 11 years from now) is ignored. No, you and I aren’t paying enough, that’s the problem -- or so we’re told. As if past tax hikes haven’t proved, time and again, that government will quickly consume any additional funds, and then some.