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The Overextended America

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

WASHINGTON -- We in America today live in a country circumscribed by entitlement policies devised by an America that steadily has been disappearing. Those policies established more than a generation ago cannot possibly, in mathematical or demographic terms, support the America of the present, much less the America of the future. That is the stark reality. We need to reform those policies, or we shall go bankrupt, and raising taxes on the so-called rich will not fix things. Even raising taxes on the middle class will not fix things. Nor will spending a trillion dollars more than we have on hand fix things. Eventually, those trillion-dollar deficits have to be paid off. Facts are facts; the day of reckoning that our hayseed politicians have said was up the road apiece is here. We have to do something now, and we can begin by growing the economy.

That is the burden of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's carefully thought-out budget for fiscal year 2013. The way he would get the economy growing again is by lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to a more competitive 25 percent. He would allow American corporations to bring profits earned abroad home without penalty so that they could invest in jobs and factories here. His budget would eliminate the complexity of the tax code on individuals and families and consolidate the tax brackets -- from the current six brackets to two, of 10 percent and 25 percent. He argues that revenue would remain steady because of the elimination of special-interest loopholes and because of economic growth.

As for confronting the budgetary overhang, the Ryan budget offers disciplined spending cuts that amount to $5.3 trillion over the next decade. He would return to the states the responsibility for federal programs such as food stamps and Medicaid, for at the state level, the needs of the citizens are better-understood than they are at the national level. He would reorganize education and job training and make Pell Grants dependent on need. Taking on the major force behind our budgetary exigency, Ryan plans a complete overhaul of health care, eliminating Obamacare and reforming Medicare. For those in retirement or near retirement, there would be no change in Medicare. For those facing retirement a decade from now, the House budget would provide guaranteed coverage for various options, to be financed by "premium support." Recipients could bid for various options made available by competing insurance companies. As Ryan said in The Wall Street Journal the day before he announced his budget, "forcing health plans to compete against each other is the best way to achieve high-quality coverage at the lowest cost."

That same day, Ryan announced on YouTube: "Americans have a choice to make -- a choice that's going to determine our country's future. Will it be the future that looks like the America we know -- one of greater opportunity, greater prosperity -- or more of what we're seeing today, debt, doubt and decline?" That stress on choice is becoming a theme of Republicans, as opposed to President Barack Obama's entitlement state.

Choice of one policy over another policy. Choice over the government straitjacket. Choice is the natural consequence of a people that believes in personal liberty.

By making choices in public policy, one creates competition and all the benefits that come from competition. One creates better policies, policies suited for individuals' varying needs. One creates efficiencies in distribution and in design of policies. Ever since the New Deal, the nanny state mentality has been developing ever more intrusive policies to govern our lives and to limit our freedoms. The result is the entitlement state and the trillions of dollars of looming debt. Paul Ryan and his Republican colleagues think their budget could eventually eliminate the debt and get the economy growing again. Moreover, they believe that a sufficient number of Democrats are concerned about our freedom and the budget overhang to act in a bipartisan manner on at least some of the matters Ryan has taken up. We shall see, but for now, the Senate Democrats have not even attempted a budget in three years.

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