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Welcome Budget-Cut Talk

Comment

Finally. A serious budget plan. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's proposal has the head-in-the-sand crowd horrified . A Washington Post columnist called it "radical ... irresponsible ... extreme."

Ryan's plan offers some great things: less spending than President Obama wants; a path to a balanced budget; repeal of Obamacare; an end to corporate welfare. And it would make the social safety net sustainable rather than open-ended and going broke.

It even inspired President Obama to say he'd come out with his own deficit plan, although he reportedly "will not offer details," just "goals." And of course his plan will "raise revenues." That means more taxes. Ryan's plan is better.

Scott Garrett of New Jersey, who worked on Ryan's plan, told me last week, "We want to be able to make sure that the programs that people rely on today will actually be there tomorrow."

Ryan's "roadmap to prosperity" lays out $6.2 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years — not, sadly, cuts from what government spends today, but from what President Obama wanted to spend. Spending would actually increase by about a trillion dollars over the decade.

Garrett is chairman of the Republican Study Committee, which proposes more cuts than Ryan. Its plan would actually cut spending by about $300 billion and end the deficit in eight years — [AZ2]Ryan's plan wouldn't balance the budget until 2050 or 2080. I asked what the RSC cuts that Ryan doesn't.

"We take additional cuts in the entitlements."

It raises the retirement age for Social Security to 67. Good. When FDR created Social Security, most Americans didn't even make it to age 65. Today, Americans on average live 78 years. Raising the age to 67 doesn't do much. I wish they'd index the retirement benefit age to life spans.

The RSC plan would sell 5 percent of government lands. That's good, too. It would also reduce the federal workforce by 15 percent. Ryan's figure is 10 percent. That's a start. But they would do it by "attrition." That's cowardly. It's not management. They should fire the worst 10 or 15 percent.

That's what private-sector managers do.

Also, neither Ryan nor the RSC really address "defense." There's nothing in either plan that asks what the military's mission should be, or even what the role of government should be. Ryan and the RSC don't kill off any departments. They just cut most things a little — assuming that almost everything government does, it should do. That's not management. When Ronald Reagan campaigned, he said he would close the Education and Energy departments. He didn't, and they've only grown. Now, when they acknowledge the budget crisis, even the Republicans don't want to close them.

Today, the federal government spends 25 percent of gross domestic product. Ryan would get it down to 20 percent. But when Bill Clinton left office, it was 18 percent.

Sen. Rand Paul has a program that would balance the budget in five years by cutting $4 trillion — or 20 percent — off the Congressional Budget Office's baseline. It's a better plan.

"The president's plan will add about $11 trillion to the debt over 10 years," Paul told me. "Congressman Ryan ... is trying to do the right thing, but his plan will add $8 trillion to the debt over 10 years. We need to do something much more dramatic, or I think we're in for a world of hurt."

He'd get rid of whole departments, like Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and Commerce. He'd also reduce "defense" spending.

Paul said: "The inconvenient truth for conservatives is you cannot balance the budget if you eliminate (only) nonmilitary spending. ... I do believe in a strong national defense ... but it doesn't mean that all military spending is sacred or that all military spending is well-spent."

Neither Paul's plan nor the weaker RSC and Ryan plans will prevail this year. After all, Democrats control the Senate and the White House. But at least they got the conversation going. It should pay off in the future. And that's cause for some cheer.

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "Give Me a Break" and of "Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at <a href="http://www.johnstossel.com" <http://www.johnstossel.com>>johnstossel.com</a>. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

2 Comments | Post Comment
Stossel is right as always. That said, I do think people should not be so harsh about the fact that the Ryan plan is not good enough. Of course, it is not good enough. However, if a plan was proposed (which many have been for years) that was realistic, the cuts would be so great that it wouldn't be included in the national conversation. Like most adequate plans to cut to the federal government, such a plan would only be popular on libertarian blogs and similar media.

Ryan's plan was certainly dramatic by the standard of normal Washington conversation. The most significant thing about it is the fact that it is in the realm of possibility. Not now but if the Republicans take the Senate and White House in 2012 with sensible candidates, Ryan's plan (or something similar) could feasibly pass. The one problem would be if passing a Ryan like plan leads Republicans to a feeling of complacency not to move on to plans like Rand Paul's plan or better ones.

In any case, accepting virtually anything President Obama would ever agree to is unsafe. They should've let the government shut down. The budget was already overdue. We should support plans like Paul Ryan's simply because they so greatly shift the conversation. Hopefully it will be the sort of thing that comes to dominate the conversation in the Republican primaries because it would become apparent to all sectors of the Republican Party that Ron Paul is the choice.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Zack
Fri Apr 15, 2011 8:16 AM
When I make a budget, I start with what I earn and go from there. When I run out of money, I stop adding things to my budget or subtract things from it. How hard is this? Oh yes, it is hard to admit I can no longer afford the 2011 Audi Q7, and the kids will no longer get welfare (oops, I meant allowance); but it is the correct thing to do. Sometimes doing the right thing hurts.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Old Guy
Fri Apr 29, 2011 3:16 AM
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