The Budget’s Path to Prosperity

House Republicans will begin a new conversation in Washington as they offer a bold plan to start putting our fiscal house in order. A survey conducted last week for Let Freedom Ring, a grassroots organization supporting the conservative agenda, shows Americans are ready.

“Suppose a family was spending $16,000 more than they earn and they charged it to their credit card,” the survey asked. “If they decided to cut their spending by $610 and continued to charge the remaining $15,390 on their credit card, would you say that they had taken a serious step towards solving their spending problem?”

An overwhelming 86 percent of those surveyed said that would not be a serious attempt at reform. Only 5 percent said it would be, according to the survey conducted March 30 by Pulse Opinion Research. Yet the numbers equate to the budget offered by President Obama in February.

Clearly, Americans are ready to get the country’s fiscal house in order, and they don’t just want nicks around the edges of the deficit.

The budget plan, developed under House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, will lay out a new vision for federal spending in the upcoming fiscal year. It’s designed to get us off the path we are on that will bankrupt the country with out-of-control entitlement spending and to offer reforms designed to strengthen the economy with tax reform and spending restraint.

Rep. Ryan told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” the GOP plan will cut spending by more than $4 trillion over the next decade: “We’re going to put out a budget that gets us on a path to not only balancing the budget, but gets us on a path to paying down the debt. . . . We save Medicare, save Medicaid. We save these entitlement programs; we repair our social safety net. And we get . . . a debt-free country for our children and grandchildren’s generation. And we get jobs — we get economic growth.”

Be prepared for a huge blowback to the plan from people resisting “change.” But ask yourself if we really have the option to stick our heads in the sand and pretend we can avoid the fiscal calamity that is coming. We can choose rationing, higher taxes, and more deficit spending — or these 21st century reforms. There will be a choice.

Ryan is prepared, too: “They are going to demagogue us,” he told Wallace. “And it’s that demagoguery that has always prevented political leaders in the past from actually trying to fix the problem. . . . The president has punted. We’re not going to follow suit. And, yes, we will be giving our political adversaries things to use against in the next election. And shame on them if they do that.”

One of the ideas that likely will be offered to transform the Medicare program of the future into one that will give seniors more choices of benefits in a competitive private market is called “premium support.”

Joe Antos of the American Enterprise Institute took the lead in developing a letter to congressional leaders endorsing this concept that was signed by 30 of our colleagues in the policy community.

The key message: “The budget resolution that will soon be adopted by the House of Representatives is likely to include a call for Medicare reform. The key to that reform is premium support, which can restore fiscal health to the program by promoting more efficient and effective health care for America’s seniors.”

Expect the House plan to also include a call for the federal share of Medicaid to be converted into a block grant to the states. Rhode Island has forged the path on this important reform that moves power closer to states and ultimately to patients. Other states are eager to follow.

It’s time to begin.

Published in National Review Online: The Corner, April 3, 2011.

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