COM­MENT & ANAL­Y­SIS

If con­ser­va­tives ran Washington Paul Ryan revises his blue­print for eco­nomic re­cov­ery

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

House Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ryan re­turned to the stage on Tues­day to call for more en­ti­tle­ment re­form, spend­ing re­straint and lower tax rates. It’s a mes­sage this coun­try needs to hear. As­sured of sup­port from all the Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, his bud­get is es­sen­tially the party’s plat­form as it seeks to re­take con­trol of the White House and Se­nate in Novem­ber.

Mr. Ryan’s pro­posal spends $19 bil­lion less in dis­cre­tionary funds than the top limit for 2013 un­der the Bud­get Con­trol Act — an im­por­tant nod to House con­ser­va­tives who oth­er­wise might have op­posed the bud­get. Se­nate Democrats op­pose spend­ing less than ev­ery dime al­lowed un­der last year’s debt-ceil­ing deal. Con­gres­sional in­sid­ers al­ready are wor­ried that House Repub­li­cans have set up a po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive sit­u­a­tion in which the cau­cus will vote on lim­its now, only to be forced to sup­port an end-of-the-year om­nibus that spends more than their own bud­get. In ad­di­tion, the House will work this spring to find fur­ther cuts to take into ac­count the $97 bil­lion that will be se­questered au­to­mat­i­cally in Jan­uary to pay for the higher debt ceil­ing.

De­spite be­ing pum­meled by the Medis­care ads from Democrats, Mr. Ryan did not back away from tack­ling the health care pro­gram for se­niors that has be­come the big­gest driver of debt. “If we al­low en­ti­tle­ment pol­i­tics, fear that your ad­ver­saries will turn your re­forms into a po­lit­i­cal weapon used against you, and we cow to that, then Amer­ica is go­ing to have a debt cri­sis,” Mr. Ryan told re­porters on Tues­day. This year’s plan has been tweaked to blunt the worst of the fear tac­tics. The pro­posal main­tains the ex­ist­ing pay-for-ser­vice plan as an op­tion for se­niors who choose not to take ad­van­tage of pre­mium-sup­port, pri­vate-sec­tor choices. Mr. Ryan’s bud­get also would repeal Oba­macare, sav­ing some of the ex­pense of Medi­care and hun­dreds of bil­lions over­all.

The pro­posal dou­bles down by curb­ing other out-of-con­trol en­ti­tle­ments. These in­clude block­grant­ing Med­i­caid and other means-test­ing pro­gram funds to the states; rais­ing gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees’ con­tri­bu­tions to their pen­sions; re­form­ing wel­fare by cap­ping spend­ing and elim­i­nat­ing over­lap­ping pro­grams; and putting a work re­quire­ment and time limit on pro­grams such as food stamps.

On the rev­enue side, Mr. Ryan pro­poses for the first time a pro-growth in­di­vid­ual tax re­form plan. It would re­place the ex­ist­ing six tax brack­ets with a 10 per­cent and 25 per­cent bracket. He asks the Ways and Means Com­mit­tee to close loop­holes and other breaks so that the whole pack­age will be sim­pler, but rev­enue neu­tral. Eas­ing com­pli­ance bur­dens will give the econ­omy a boost.

Un­for­tu­nately, Mr. Ryan’s plan does not reach bal­ance for al­most 30 years, whereas the Cut, Cap and Bal­ance bud­get from the Re­pub­li­can Study Com­mit­tee evens the ledgers in 10. How­ever, Mr. Ryan said his bud­get ac­tu­ally would bal­ance in a decade, but he has to use faulty pro­jec­tions from the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice that as­sume tax in­creases in 2013 will make the econ­omy tank.

Mr. Ryan’s get-out-of-debt strat­egy sets up a clear choice for vot­ers. Pres­i­dent Obama and Se­nate Democrats refuse to pro­duce a bud­get. Repub­li­cans have a vi­able road map that will end the cul­ture of bor­row-and-spend. Those who want ac­tual change will know which lever to pull on Nov. 6.

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