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Edwin Feulner: It's time to get serious about balancing the budget

The Heritage Foundation Published: March 27, 2013 4:00 AM

Say you're running a business, and you find yourself awash in red ink. You realize it's time to retool your approach, and fast. So you ask two different employees to each come up with a budget. You'll go with whoever writes the best plan.

What are the chances that one of them will submit a budget that never puts you in the black? That suggests you raise prices and spend still more money? Practically nil.

Yet that's exactly what the Senate expects the federal government to do. Its recent budget proposal doesn't even attempt to restore balance. Spending would go up right away. So would taxes. And it doesn't even touch entitlement programs such as Medicare -- which, along with interest on the debt, will take up all tax revenues by 2025, when today's kindergarteners go off to college (absent reform).

It's easy to shrug such warnings off, especially when we hear about the problems of deficit spending all the time. But doing so raises the very real risk of a debt crisis that can hurt all Americans, especially the poor and middle class. Growing inflation is one danger, as is higher interest rates. Mortgages, credit cards, consumer loans and business loans would become more expensive for millions of Americans.

Fortunately, the "other employee" in the scenario laid out above has come up with a smarter approach. The House plan, spearheaded by Rep. Paul Ryan would balance the budget in 10 years, and cut the annual growth in spending from 5 percent to 3.4 percent. Even better, it would repeal Obamacare. And it dares to reform Medicaid and Medicare.

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The Ryan budget also prevents a series of damaging cuts to our military set to occur under the "sequestration" budget axe. At a time when North Korea and Iran are racing to acquire nuclear missiles, cutting defense is the last thing we should be doing. In fact, we should be spending more, but at least the Ryan budget forestalls the worst cuts.

It's not flawless, though. Its chief failing? Taxes. True, the Ryan budget lays out important principles for tax reform and rightly rejects closing tax preferences ("loopholes") just to raise revenue. Despite repealing Obamacare, however, it keeps the program's higher tax revenues. But these are "the oxygen that fuels the fire of ever bigger spending," Fraser says, "the entire fire needs to be put out." That means repealing all of the president's signature health care law, including its tax increases.

Still, this is a strong plan which deserves serious consideration.

There are six things that each budget from the House, Senate, and president should accomplish (laid out in Heritage's plan "Saving the American Dream):

n Balance the budget in less than 10 years, without raising taxes, and keep the budget in balance thereafter.

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n Swiftly overhaul entitlement programs, including Social Security, to guarantee economic security to seniors while making the programs affordable.

n Repeal Obamacare in its entirety.

n Fully fund defense.

nRoll back discretionary spending.

n Rolls back recent tax increases with a sweeping, growth-oriented tax reform plan and caps taxes at the historical average of 18.5 percent.

The Senate budget is a non-starter. The Ryan budget is a vast improvement. In a time of economic uncertainty, replete with unsustainable budget increases, we need to stop dodging hard choices. We know what needs to be done. It's time to do it.

Ed Feulner is president of The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org).

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little_r_republican Mar 27, 2013 12:24 PM

woops...posted in wrong place.

little_r_republican Mar 27, 2013 12:22 PM

Don't I have a right to marry as many women as I want? Who grants "rights"? National government? God?

TaggR Mar 27, 2013 10:24 AM

Self pity becomes your oxygen. But you learned to breathe it without a gasp. So, nobody even notices you're hurting.

Paul Monette

little_r_republican Mar 27, 2013 8:30 AM

Balance the budget? What a foolish idea. The recipent class will be the first to riot when the treats stop flowing.

Ian_Maserb Mar 27, 2013 8:18 AM

Let's just face it. Washington has resigned itself to the fact that the Federal Government will collapse. They are just grabbing what they can while they can. And the liberals join in, not noticing that their pockets being picked as well. Looting, nothing more.