"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Ryan Budget


Paul Ryan's new budget, discussed here on NRO, puts the country on a path toward a balanced budget in ten years.   The editors of NRO call Ryan's budget a "broad vision for the fiscal future of the United States [and] an important step in the right direction if it were to become law."

Now, I love Paul Ryan.   I think he's a great public servant in the true sense of the term.   But, come on.   

Ten years?  

Between Fort Sumter and Appomattox was four years.   Between Pearl Harbor and the surrender on the U.S.S Missouri was less than that.   Between JFK's promise and Neil Armstrong's footprints was a little over eight years.  Heck, from John the Baptist to the Cross, Jesus Christ's ministry was only a little over three years!

But our best and brightest and boldest can't get us to a balanced budget inside of a decade?  Really? 

And what's really sad is that the same NRO article actually hints at a path that would balance the budget much sooner:

What Ryan’s budget does not contain, it should be emphasized, is spending cuts. The difference between Ryan’s balanced budget and Obama’s crippling deficits is this: Ryan proposes that federal spending be allowed to grow at 3.4 percent a year rather than the 5 percent rate it is expected to hit otherwise. That is the most important context for this debate: For a difference of 1.6 percentage points in the growth of federal spending, we get a balanced budget in ten years instead of a headlong rush into a debt crisis on the Greco-Spanish model.

If "only" allowing the budget to grow at 3.4 percent a year for the next ten years leads to a balanced budget, why not let it grow at only 1 or 2% and balance it sooner?   Indeed, if the nearly $4 trillion federal budget is scheduled to grow at 5% a year, or about $200 billion a year, why not say we're going to keep the same gargantuan federal spending we have now, which is a trillion or more dollars greater than it was only 5 years ago, until the budget is balanced in 4 or 5 years.   Would that really be so "painful" (as Obama says) that the American people couldn't survive?   Are we really so weak that only a $4 trillion government can save us?
The political class has utterly failed us if they can't even imagine a scenario where balancing the budget sooner than ten years is possible.    We've reached the point where W.B. Yeats is right:  the "best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

And what worries me, as the father of three, is "what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born."  

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