Back­bone in the bud­get sea­son

Con­ser­va­tives push for a bal­anced bud­get in the near-term

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

You can al­ways count on politi­cians to max out their credit line. Plans for 2013 al­ready have Washington near­ing the spend­ing limit set last sum­mer in the Bud­get Con­trol Act. Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans struck that deal with Pres­i­dent Obama, let­ting him raise the debt ceil­ing by $2.1 tril­lion in ex­change for less spend­ing. Spend­ing has gone up, and now con­gres­sional con­ser­va­tives are try­ing to stop the run­away red ink.

On Thurs­day, fresh­man Sen. Rand Paul re­leased a strat­egy to bal­ance the bud­get in only five years. The Ken­tucky Re­pub­li­can’s bold pro­posal would pay off $2 tril­lion of the na­tional debt within 10 years — a time­frame un­heard of any­where else on Capi­tol Hill. The De­part­ments of En­ergy, Ed­u­ca­tion, Com­merce and Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment would be closed. The big­gest driv­ers of the debt — so­cial en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams — would be reformed with pro­vi­sions like giv­ing Medi­care re­cip­i­ents the same health plans as mem­bers of Congress. Mr. Paul would limit for­eign aid to $5 bil­lion a year and pri­va­tize the dys­func­tional Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Agency. A 17 per­cent flat tax for in­di­vid­u­als and cor­po­ra­tions would en­cour­age growth, and thus in­crease rev­enue.

Last year, House Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ryan pro­duced a bud­get with real en­ti­tle­ment re­form, but even un­der this pow­er­ful spend­ing blue­print it would have taken 30 years for Un­cle Sam to break even. Mr. Ryan’s new bud­get is ex­pected in two weeks, with a vote be­fore the April 15 statu­tory dead­line.

The Re­pub­li­can Study Com­mit­tee’s (RSC) bud­get out­line from last year known as Cut, Cap and Bal­ance has be­come the eco­nomic plat­form for all the Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates. Rep. Jim Jor­dan, the RSC chair­man, is draft­ing a bud­get for this year that will again bring bal­ance within 10 years. “When your debt is big­ger than your econ­omy, it’s not where you want to be — it’s Greece or Italy. And the win­dow to fix this is rapidly clos­ing,” the Ohio con­gress­man told The Washington Times. “We need to show the Amer­i­can peo­ple what will be done if they give Repub­li­cans the chance to gov­ern in the House, Se­nate and White House next year.” Mr. Jor­dan also wants the House to ad­dress the au­to­matic $97 bil­lion se­ques­tra­tion in 2013 in a re­al­is­tic way, which means low­er­ing the bud­get limit by that amount in dis­cre­tionary spend­ing. The re­sult would bring spend­ing back to the 2008 level, be­fore Mr. Obama and con­gres­sional Democrats went hog-wild with the credit card.

Rank-and-file mem­bers like Bud­get Com­mit­tee and RSC mem­ber Rep. Tom Mcclin­tock want to get as much bang for the buck as pos­si­ble. “Our 2012 bud­get set us on course to bal­ance the bud­get by mid-2030s and pay off en­tire debt by mid-2040s,” the Cal­i­for­nia Re­pub­li­can told The Washington Times. “That’s where I draw the line in the sand. I would sup­port any plan that brings bal­ance sooner than that.”

The Demo­cratic Se­nate hasn’t pro­duced a bud­get in three years and isn’t likely to start now. Pres­i­dent Obama’s bud­get was a fis­cal dis­as­ter and, thus, is ir­rel­e­vant to the process. Con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans are of­fer­ing an al­ter­na­tive fu­ture by show­cas­ing how they would bal­ance the books and chip away at the debt if given full con­trol in Washington in Novem­ber.

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