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Applauding Courage with Clarity

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

In 2006, Senator Obama wisely said, “Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.” Amen!

But as President, working with the Democrat-controlled Senate, he’s toying with a government shut down over the House’s responsible $40 billion cut in a proposed $3.83 trillion 2011 federal budget. That’s just over a one percent cut in spending! This comical political display from the party that failed to pass a timely budget before the last election assumes that Americans will blame “mean-spirited” Republicans for trying to cut spending. If Americans punish Republicans for acting like adults in facing an unpleasant reality, they deserve the economic disaster that will occur if this out-of-control spending is not stopped.

Democrat Erskine Bowles, co-chairman of Obama’s Deficit Commission, reinforces that concern: “I think we face the most predictable economic crisis in history. A lot of us…didn’t see this last crisis as it came upon us, but this one is really easy to see. This debt and these deficits that we are incurring on an annual basis are like a cancer. They are truly going to destroy this country from within unless we have the common sense to do something about it.”

Unfortunately, in establishing his deficit-exploding 2012 budget, President Obama thanked the commission but totally disregarded the dire warnings and austere recommendations of his bipartisan deficit commission. He didn’t lead; he punted!

In contrast to the Democrats’ Washington-as-usual, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, head of the House Budget Committee, has presented a bold budget that promises to decrease our spending by over $6 trillion over 10 years. No more budget tricks; no more empty promises and accounting gimmicks. With courage and clarity, Ryan has taken the lead in Washington and established the starting point for discussions between now and the Fall when the budget will need to be approved.

So, I say with many who have been waiting for some politician to lead, “Bravo! Congrats! OohRah!” Finally, someone has demonstrated the courage to face the elephant in the room that politicians have been tiptoeing around but most Americans plainly see. The Republicans have taken on the untouchables of Social Security and Medicare, the third rail of politics, proposed a replacement for Obamacare that is modeled after the healthcare plan politicians and federal employees have, and, most importantly, provided a workable path to solvency and economic recovery that will ensure the future of America.

There will be plenty of time to argue the particulars; that will be done by pundits and politicians over the course of the next few months. But the stake has been planted that sets the stage for transformational change.

Ryan’s sobering but effective budget would not only eliminate the debilitating national deficit; it would also create a surplus by 2080. Yes, 2080. We are that far in debt! Paul Ryan has said what most realists understand, “The United States is heading for a debt crisis. The only solutions will be truly painful for us all. That doesn’t have to be our future. The way we respond to this challenge will ultimately define our generation.”

Thomas Payne’s “The Crisis” rallied patriots to take a stand for freedom. He started with the memorable line—“These are the times that try men’s souls.” This again is such a time. We need leaders who are not worried about being liked or even being reelected. We need leaders who will help America meet the challenges that aren’t going away whether Democrats or Republicans are in control.

One need only look at the last month to realize the madness of our current level of spending. In March alone, the U.S. government spent eight times more than its monthly revenue. During March, according to the Treasury, the federal government grossed $194 billion in tax revenue and paid out $65.898 billion in tax refunds netting $128.179 billion in tax revenue for March. At the same, the Treasury paid out a total of $1.1187 trillion. The lion’s share of this federal spending went to redeem Treasury securities that had matured during the month.

Need more unsettling facts about the mess we are in? 2011 is the first year in which Social Security payments to beneficiaries will exceed the “contributions” from taxpayers by over $45 billion. With over 7,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, without changes, you will never again see a year in which SS Fund income exceeds benefit payments.

We love blaming politicians for this mess, but as Pogo so wisely said in his cartoon, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!” Yes, it is “We the People” who must look in the mirror, and face the facts that we are in very perilous times that require extraordinary solutions. The consequences of failure are too great to ignore.

You deserve the truth, and future generations deserve a more stable future. Certainly, none of us will like all the changes that must be made, but change we must. Waiting for a tsunami of changes that would come with economic collapse is madness. It’s time to support and keep electing political leaders with the courage to drive bold but necessary changes.

Start by reading Rep. Ryan’s budget proposal for yourself. Become informed. Get involved. Write your representatives and senators and challenge them to join the discussion in finding solutions that will help America find a secure path to prosperity for years to come.

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