Opinion

Time for grown-ups

Photo of Hon. Ernest Istook
Hon. Ernest Istook
Former Republican Congressman
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  • Bio

      Hon. Ernest Istook

      Ernest J. Istook Jr. is a Distinguished Fellow at <a href="http://www.heritage.org/">The Heritage Foundation</a>. Istook served 14 years as a U.S. Congressman, then joined Heritage in 2007. He engaged in a wide and robust range of issues in Congress as he served on the House Appropriations Committee and chaired multiple subcommittees. He also served on the Homeland Security Committee.

      His congressional experience ranged from overall budget and spending issues to all forms of transportation, trade, defense, health care, education, labor, financial services, homeland security, religious liberty, and many others. He is a founder of the Republican Study Committee, the principal conservative caucus in the U.S. House.

      Tapping his broad experience, Istook is a frequent fill-in host for several major national talk radio programs; he writes weekly opinion columns for multiple outlets that include <a href="http://www.newsmax.com/blogs/ErnestIstook/id-66">NewsMax</a>, <a href="http://www.humanevents.com/search.php?author_name=Ernest++Istook">Human Events</a>, and The Daily Caller. His daily radio commentaries are heard on over 80 radio stations. He is a regular guest on many network and cable news and commentary programs.

      Istook’s professional background has been as a journalist, practicing attorney, public official and now policy expert. Overall, he served 25 years in elected office, ranging from city council to state legislature to U.S. Congress, all after he moved to Oklahoma in 1972 from his native Fort Worth, Texas. He also was the Republican nominee for Governor of Oklahoma in 2006.

      Istook holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Baylor University and law degree from Oklahoma City University. He and his wife, Judy, have five adult children and are active in church work. Istook served several years as a Boy Scout Scoutmaster. He is the grandson of Hungarian immigrants and the first college graduate in his entire family tree.

      His personal website is <a href="http://www.istook.com">www.istook.com</a>.

      Follow him on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/Ernest_Istook">@Ernest_Istook</a>.

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has proposed a budget for grown-ups.

Washington’s big spenders have responded with the tired clichés we expect from defenders of big government:

“Pulling the rug out from under seniors,” says Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

“Waging war on American workers,” says Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA).

“A path to poverty for America’s seniors and children,” claims House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

“The tea party has hijacked the Republican caucus,” says House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

Pee Wee Herman could have delivered more creative comebacks. But adult conversations about serious issues are lacking in Washington, D.C. Ryan’s plan should be rated at least R for Realism, while the dismissive comments are PG for Politically Guided.

Ryan’s plan is a big deal. A very big deal. Its proposed $6.2 trillion of savings (compared to Obama’s budget) over ten years is literally 100 times larger than the $61 billion that the GOP is trying to cut this year — and that Democrats are fighting against ferociously.

Changing Medicare to a defined contribution plan is a good course to pursue, and of course a tough sell. But it makes a huge difference in controlling spending and reducing deficits. The same with revising Medicaid to give states flexibility to deliver care more efficiently — yet with limited federal outlays.

As The Heritage Foundation’s annual Index of Dependency notes, dependence on government is skyrocketing. Ryan’s plan would address that.

Spending limitations, rollbacks and freezes. Repeal of Obamacare. Cutting corporate welfare (including farm subsidies) as well as overly generous giveaways to individuals. Structural reform for federal health care programs, which are the biggest runaway spending items. Ryan is serious in a way that few other politicians are.

But his “Path to Prosperity” is about economic growth, not just spending. Tax simplification is one aspect, and so is lowering corporate taxes so businesses are not pushed overseas by what is now the world’s highest rate. A Heritage Foundation analysis finds this would create a million jobs a year for starters, and double that rate in short order.

It’s not perfect. Our national defense needs are greater than Ryan projects. Social Security’s problems are not addressed. And welfare reform should go beyond what he lays out.

But Ryan’s proposal is good, tough stuff — strong medicine that we need, not politically correct placebos that the plan’s opponents are already peddling.

We live in a time when cute sound bites substitute for debate and false claims are used to justify inaction despite our fiscal crisis. While most of his critics carp without offering any alternatives, Ryan has delivered a needed challenge before we fall totally over the fiscal cliff.

Paul Ryan respects Americans — especially taxpayers. He speaks to us like adults. For the rest of Washington, it’s time to put away childish things.

Ernest Istook calls himself a “recovering” congressman, and is now a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

  • BigRmv

    The best part of a plan like this is that it starts the conversation. We have any number of self-serving politicians (I’m looking at you Mssrs. Obama and Reid AND YOU, Nancy) that won’t even consider any other view than their own. But that’s their job–to work towards the good of the country and compromise where needed, not working to be re-elected.

    I’ve heard and like the idea of imposing a national sales tax at a set rate (like a VAT) and eliminating the IRS and Income Tax forever. This serves several purposes that everyone can get behind. First, the people who buy goods pay the taxes. The single mom buys bread and milk for the kids and pays her fair share while the “rich white guys” that the Democrats rally against pay taxes on the new yacht and the $3.2 Million house. Fair, right?

    No plan is perfect and even perfect plans are rarely executed perfectly. But we can pull ourselves out of this hole if our elected leaders will pull their heads out and work together like adults.