Paul Ryan has introduced the House Republicans’ 2015 budget, and it is, again, a compelling vision for a more limited, fiscally sustainable federal government. The broad strokes are the same as in previous years: calling for revenue-neutral, pro-growth tax reform, slowing domestic discretionary spending, devolving welfare spending to the states, preserving a strong military, and tackling our most costly entitlement.
His plan gets our annual red ink down below 1 percent of GDP — Deutschland deficits — within just three years. That trajectory would bring debt as a percentage of the U.S. economy from about 73 percent of GDP to 56 percent in ten years. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office projects that these savings will accelerate economic growth toward the end of the decade (because they avoid especially high levels of debt — further restraint wouldn’t necessarily mean even more growth).
Since last year, our defense budget has shriveled rapidly — along with, as has been evident, our influence overseas. So Ryan proposes to spend $274 billion more than the president’s budget does on defense (though even that was an improvement over sequestration levels). This should be a big step toward preserving the U.S. military’s force structure and our ability to protect our interests around the world.
The most important of the ideas Ryan has repeatedly proposed and gotten passed in the House is his Medicare reform. The combination of America’s aging population and our broken health-care system will be devastating to our federal budget and the economy unless we do something like what Ryan has proposed. The president has addressed our national health-insurance millstone only in passing, and with his most familiar — and most historically impotent and inefficient — method, command-and-control economics. Ryan’s plan would introduce competition and innovation into Medicare, cutting costs while providing the same benefits. This time he’s tweaked the plan that already got the endorsement of Democratic senator Ron Wyden, to save seniors money while pushing them toward private plans. Medicare is growing so costly so quickly, in fact, that Ryan shouldn’t wait a decade to implement his plan, as his budget again does.
Medicare isn’t our only unsustainable entitlement, and Ryan is less aggressive on the others: Republicans need a plan on Social Security, and he expects unlikely savings from merely block-granting Medicaid to the states.
But having a majority of the House vote year after year to reform a third rail of American politics is a virtuous habit. The 2015 budget may not offer much new, but it is a reminder that Ryan has repeatedly offered innovative ideas, stood by them, and tried to win arguments rather than just elections.