With his 2012 spending blueprint, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has introduced the only comprehensive federal budget proposal that seriously addresses the nation’s dire fiscal challenges, or to put it in terms President Barack Obama seems to prefer, that deserves a place in an adult conversation about those challenges.
Ryan’s “roadmap to prosperity” certainly is far more serious than the budget proposal Obama submitted to Congress earlier this year. The Obama plan not only nearly doubled the national debt by 2020, it totally ignored the recommendations of the president’s own bipartisan fiscal commission and included nothing about reforming the entitlement programs that are the principal drivers behind the soaring of our national debt.
Ryan’s plan cuts total spending during the coming decade by $6 trillion relative to Obama’s proposal. That reductions of this magnitude are being considered shows the gravity of our debt problem. But even Ryan’s plan fails to balance the budget by the end of the decade. If America’s fiscal condition is so dire that $6 trillion in spending reductions are not enough to remedy it by 2020, why are Obama and congressional Democrats now threatening to let the government shut down in an effort to preserve a paltry $30 billion of at-best questionable outlays in fiscal 2011?
If the federal government does shut down this weekend, voters should keep in mind how we got to this point in the first place. When the Democrats had large majorities in the Senate and House in the 111th Congress, as well as their own man in the White House, they were obsessed with forcing passage of leftist ideological milestones such as the economic stimulus program, Obamacare and cap-and-trade. As a result, they became the first Congress to fail to approve an annual budget since passage in 1974 of the Budget and Impoundment Control Act. Instead of fulfilling the most basic duty of any Congress, the Democrats opted to use temporary continuing resolutions to avoid dealing with the government’s profligacy in the vain hope that they could finesse the spending issue in the 2010 midterm congressional election.
This February, the newly empowered House Republicans stepped up to the plate and passed an actual spending bill for the rest of fiscal 2011 — a bill that included a modest $61 billion in spending cuts. Democrats filibustered that bill in the Senate, forcing another temporary fix. And, as Democratic resistance to spending cuts now threatens a government shutdown for the third time in two months, Obama has rejected House Republican offers of another short-term bill that cuts $12 billion and buys another week for negotiations. Obama’s explanation is that “there is no excuse to extend this further.”
In fact, there is no excuse for the president, who is now launching his re-election campaign and plotting $35,000-a-plate San Francisco fundraisers, to use a potential shutdown to score cheap political points. It’s time that Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress join Republicans in dealing with the issue that will most shape America’s future.