Politico reports that Ron Paul is about to show the Republican presidential field what a serious fiscal-reform plan looks like, proposing $1 trillion in real spending cuts. I look forward to seeing the detailed version of the plan, but the summary sounds promising:
He’ll propose immediately freezing spending by numerous government agencies at 2006 levels, the last time Republicans had complete control of the federal budget, and drastically reducing spending elsewhere. The EPA would see a 30 percent cut, the Food and Drug Administration would see one of 40 percent and foreign aid would be zeroed out immediately. He’d also take an ax to Pentagon funding for wars.
Medicaid, the children’s health insurance program, food stamps, family support programs and the children’s nutrition program would all be block-granted to the states and removed from the mandatory spending column of the federal budget. Some functions of eliminated departments, such as Pell Grants, would be continued elsewhere in the federal bureaucracy.
And in a noticeable nod to seniors during an election year when Social Security’s become an issue within the Republican primary, the campaign says that plan “honors our promise to our seniors and veterans, while allowing young workers to opt out.”
The federal workforce would be reduced by 10 percent, and the president’s pay would be cut to $39,336 — a level that the Paul document notes is “approximately equal to the median personal income of the American worker.”
Never mind the silly symbolic stuff — presidential pay, etc. — $1 trillion in cuts, block-granting some big entitlements, creating a Social Security opt-out: these are things that need to happen. They won’t happen in the next two years, probably — any more than the Ryan Roadmap will be enacted — but it is important that Republicans lay down a few serious long-term budget markers.
Real fiscal change probably won’t happen until things get bad enough economically that reform looks politically easier than maintaining the status quo. But moments like that have a way of sneaking up on you — ask the Greeks — and we’ll want to have a robust plan ready to go. For all my reservations about Ron Paul, he does a real public service by reminding conservatives that, while we are rightly hesitant about radical proposals, tinkering around the edges is not going to get it done in the long term. The age of unpleasant choices is upon us.