Today, the federal government spends 25 percent of gross domestic product. Ryan would get it down to 20 percent. But when Bill Clinton left office, it was 18 percent.
Sen. Rand Paul has a program that would balance the budget in five years by cutting $4 trillion -- or 20 percent -- off the Congressional Budget Office's baseline. It's a better plan.
"The president's plan will add about $11 trillion to the debt over 10 years," Paul told me. "Congressman Ryan ... is trying to do the right thing, but his plan will add $8 trillion to the debt over 10 years. We need to do something much more dramatic, or I think we're in for a world of hurt."
He'd get rid of whole departments, like Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and Commerce. He'd also reduce "defense" spending.
Paul said: "The inconvenient truth for conservatives is you cannot balance the budget if you eliminate (only) nonmilitary spending. ... I do believe in a strong national defense ... but it doesn't mean that all military spending is sacred or that all military spending is well-spent."
Neither Paul's plan nor the weaker RSC and Ryan plans will prevail this year. After all, Democrats control the Senate and the White House. But at least they got the conversation going. It should pay off in the future. And that's cause for some cheer.