Jacob Sullum
Next month, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, a 12-member subset of Congress that Congress created to make the hard fiscal choices Congress itself has failed to make, is expected to propose $1.2 trillion in cuts from projected spending during the next decade. This week, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, unveiled a plan to cut nearly that much in 2013 alone, followed by similar cuts in the next two years, yielding a balanced budget by 2015.

The contrast between the so-called supercommittee's goal and Paul's plan shows how pathetic official Washington's gestures of fiscal responsibility are, even in these supposedly straitened times. Paul's detailed numbers refute the myth that the budget cannot be balanced without raising taxes while challenging his opponents -- none of whom has offered anything nearly as specific -- to put up or shut up.

Paul's plan not only extends the tax cuts enacted under the Bush administration, it reduces the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent while abolishing taxes on inheritances, capital gains and personal savings. It nevertheless manages to eliminate the budget deficit within three years, largely by reducing military spending, capping most programs at 2006 spending levels, converting Medicaid and other welfare programs into block grants and eliminating five Cabinet-level departments: Commerce, Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and Interior.

As USA Today noted, Paul is "a longtime critic of federal spending not authorized by the Constitution" -- a description that applies to sadly few members of Congress, all of whom take an oath to respect the limits imposed on the federal government by the document that created it. Yet Paul's plan would not return the country to the 1990s, let alone the 19th century. It calls for total outlays of $2.9 trillion in 2015, which is about as much as the federal government spent as recently as 2003, adjusted for inflation.

You may not agree with Paul's priorities, but at least he has laid them out for everyone to see. Meanwhile, the vast majority of his fellow legislators continue to pretend there is no need to prioritize at all.


Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
 
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