By Joe Boyles
Paul Ryan is a young congressman from Janesville, WI. I say young – he’s 42 and been in Congress since 1999. Normally, I have little regard for youthful politicians because they generally lack enough life experiences to put them in a position of power over us, but Ryan is different. Since the Republicans took control of Congress in 2011, he has been the Chairman of the House Budget Committee. I’m confident in this assertion – there is no one in elected office other than Paul Ryan who better understands the intricacies of the Federal budget and how to fix its’ inherent problems.
For the second consecutive year, Ryan has introduced a budget plan, titled “The Path to Prosperity. Last year’s version passed the House of Representative but died in the Senate where majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) refused to allow for a vote. This year, Ryan has returned for a second bite at the apple, but this year’s budget has one major change from last year’s – instead of making Medicare strictly fee-for-service, this year’s plan says that Medicare-eligible beneficiaries can choose between existing Medicare or the new plan.
Ryan’s plan, which over a ten year period reduces spending by $5.3 trillion (from the president’s proposed budget) and the deficit by $3 trillion, tackles one of the three entitlement programs which spell doom for us until they are responsibly addressed. Those three bank-busting entitlements are: Social Security; Medicare, and Medicaid. Social Security was enacted in 1935 and represents old age pensions. Medicare is health insurance for the elderly while Medicaid is health insurance for the poor and indigent. These last two entitlements were the product of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society in 1965.
The two entitlement programs which will blow a hole in any budget and doom the economy are Medicare and Medicaid. Rising health care costs and the retirement of 75 million baby-boomers spell doom for Medicare. Medicaid will quickly spiral out-of-control when 30 million formerly uninsured are added to its roles in 2014, thanks to the (not really) Affordable Care Act.
These entitlement programs and Social Security too, are largely unfunded. They were sold on the cheap and have been sustainable only because more taxes were raised initially than benefits paid. Now the bill is coming due, and we simply cannot afford it. These entitlements represent promises made by politicians in the past that cannot be paid over the long run. The politicians we elected over-promised and we believed them. The bill is coming due and it will break our collective bank.
You don’t believe me? Look at what is happening in Greece today. On the near horizon are the rest of the PIIGS – Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and Spain. When we see the economy of Italy and Spain blow up with downgraded bonds and rising inflation, you’ll begin to understand the impact of unsustainable debt. But nothing will prepare the world for (if and) when the economy of the United States implodes. We must avoid this at all cost.
There are other things in Ryan’s plan besides simply reigning in the cost of Medicare. The Path to Prosperity lowers tax rates and simplifies the tax code by cutting out most tax shelters, the caveats used by the wealthy and corporations to avoid taxes. Their special interests and army of accountants will fight tooth-and-nail to preserve the status quo, but if Republicans and some Democrats find bi-partisan agreement, the tax loophole dragon can be slayed. This important combination of lower tax rates and shelters promises to broaden the tax base.
Democrats decry Ryan’s budget with the usual attacks – war on the elderly and poor; destroying the social safety net; ending Medicare as we know it; blah, blah. But there is one thing missing in their attacks – where’s the alternative plan? They have none. The Democrat controlled Senate hasn’t passed a budget in nearly three years. By default, the Democrat (non) plan is the status quo. That means trillion dollar plus deficits as far as the eye can see until the public debt becomes so great that it crushes our economy … and the world’s as well!
I urge you to study Paul Ryan’s proposal and be informed. He is a young man on a mission and, in my opinion, deserves our attention and support. One more thing – he’s young enough and plenty smart; we probably haven’t seen the last of young Mr. Ryan. Bigger things lie ahead.