Paul Ryan, the House GOP’s budget chief, wants Washington to spend $40 trillion during the next decade, including $5 trillion that America would have to borrow.
For this, he is being demonized as “radical” and “extreme” — not by the tea party, but by Democrats.
If you thought the debate in Congress about whether to cut 2 percent of this year’s $1.4 trillion budget deficit (Democrats) or 4 percent of it (Republicans) was borderline farcical, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
A fiscal-hawk Republican is proposing merely that government grow more slowly, along the lines of the recommendations of two celebrated, then quickly forgotten, bipartisan commissions. And how have Democrats reacted? By declaring Ryan’s plan a “path to poverty for America’s seniors and children,” as ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it.
If there’s anything “extreme” going on here, it’s the leftist refrain that all’s well on the entitlement front, and that just a few tweaks are needed here and there.
In fact, the picture is far more dire.
Consider that current law requires all income-tax brackets to rise to Clinton-era rates after next year along with the full implementation of ObamaCare, while leaving entitlement programs untouched. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that following this course would, within 10 years, add $6.7 trillion in debt to the trillions we already owe.
Under that scenario, spending on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on the debt would eat up a whopping eight of every 10 dollars of federal revenue.
To balance such a budget without cutting entitlements or other domestic spending, we’d have to either reduce military spending from $700 billion a year to $0 — that’s right, not one penny for defense — or increase taxes on “the rich” by four and a half times the amount Democrats are willing to admit they want to take.
Matters only gets worse with President Barack Obama’s budget request.
His budget would raise taxes on the top two income brackets, still wouldn’t touch entitlements and would increase spending compared to current law. And keep in mind that current law already includes ObamaCare and bakes stimulus-level spending permanently into the federal cake.
The damage: $9.5 trillion more on the already tapped-out national credit card by 2021.
Under the Obama plan, entitlements and interest on the debt alone would consume nine of every 10 tax dollars during the next decade.
To balance his budget, the president would have to cut every dime of defense spending as well as half of all domestic spending (education, transportation, etc.). Either that, or raise taxes on “the rich” by more than six times the amount he’s previously called for.
Worse, both scenarios assume a rate of economic growth that’s unlikely to occur in a country where government consumes more and more resources. If growth falls short, the deficit will be even larger.
Does all this sound like a “scare tactic”? You’re darn right it’s meant to be scary. The indebted future that we’re careening into ever so blindly is a very, very scary one.
Folks, the kinds of changes envisioned in Ryan’s plan — a defined-contribution approach to Medicare, giving states less money for Medicaid but more freedom in how to spend it (a la the successful welfare reforms of the 1990s), accepting common-sense cuts in defense, and so on — are just a start.
They still leave us a long way, in both time and dollars, from balanced budgets. But they bring us far closer than anything else that anyone else in Washington dares to suggest.
– By Kyle Wingfield
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