Time for grown-ups

Hon. Ernest Istook Former Republican Congressman
Font Size:

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.