Paul Ryan’s much-anticipated “Path to Prosperity” budget plan was formally released today. Introducing the plan in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Ryan makes it clear he’s hunting bigger game than the relatively small discretionary spending cuts Congress has been haggling over. He lays out his case in the three-minute video presentation below:
Ryan compares his plan to President Obama’s recent budget, and declares he is cutting $6.2 trillion in spending over the next 10 years. Is it unfair to compare a serious plan to the President’s absurd, dead-on-arrival budget? Why not? I was under the impression the Presidency is an important job, and its occupant is meant to be taken seriously. Has our government degenerated to the point where treating the President’s huge budget proposal – which took many people hundreds of hours to prepare – as a serious document is an unreasonable rhetorical gimmick?
Even if we agree that Barack Obama has no place in the budget discussion and should be completely ignored by serious people, Ryan’s plan still reduces the deficit by $4.4 trillion over the next decade, and brings federal spending down to less than 20% of our GDP. No matter where the budget discussion goes from here, that is a very important goal. There is a school of thought that says it’s essentially impossible to extract more than about 20% of Gross Domestic Product as government revenue, for any great length of time. Raise tax rates to grab more, and the economy contracts, giving the State a larger share of a shrinking total.
Ryan’s plan does this through a combination of spending reductions (or, more properly, reductions in the rate of spending growth), budget and tax reforms, and chemotherapy for the ObamaCare tumor. He’s even ready to thrill the crowds by grabbing the electrified third rail of our unsustainable entitlement programs.
Reaction from the Left is drearily predictable, and consists of the usual tired old hacks screaming devil words like “extremist” and “radical.” Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi set the tone by renaming it the “Path to Poverty.” That’s what we need out of the useless party that couldn’t even put together a budget, the last time it held the House gavel: word games.
Even before Ryan officially released his plan, Democrat Chris van Hollen of the House Budget Committee said it would “protect tax breaks for millionaires, oil companies, and other big-money special interests, while slashing out investment in education, ending the current health care guarantees for seniors on Medicare, and denying health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans.” That last bit is a shot at Ryan’s plans to repeal ObamaCare, which Democrats think they can sell as terminating health care itself.
Democrat Senator Mark Warner of Virginia said Ryan can’t reach his goals without “basically taking a meat axe to those programs who protect the most vulnerable in the country.” The Hill ran a story back in January about the Democrats’ carefully orchestrated plan to demonize Ryan by portraying him as the “budget axe man.” It looks like Warner remembered the title of the story, at least. Never underestimate the ability of Democrats to chant carefully rehearsed slogans.
Expect lots of weak tea about tax cuts for the rich and evil oil companies in the days to come, mixed with increasingly shrill attempts to panic the old folks about Ryan’s Medicare reforms. If the Democrats had any substantial ideas for government reform, we would have heard about them during the last two years, when their party had total control of Congress. Their hour has come and gone, and they threw away their chance to make a difference, opting instead for a brass-ring power grab with ObamaCare and other expensive regulations.
There will be criticism from the Right that Ryan doesn’t go far enough. The “Path to Prosperity” is a journey, not a destination. It will create the conditions necessary for further reform, if it can achieve its goals. To borrow a quote from The Matrix, “knowing the path is not the same as walking the path.” This budget is a remarkable act of leadership and courage, which at least gets our dying government toddling in the right direction. It is a sad reality that only one of our major parties is even willing to participate in the discussion Paul Ryan has begun.