Former GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan received a raucous welcome from the CPAC crowd on Friday, where he discussed his latest budget proposal, and the competing vision offered by Senate Democrats.
“This has been a really big week. We got white smoke from the Vatican and a budget from the Senate,” he joked. “But when you read it, you’ll find that the Vatican is not the only one blowing smoke this week.”
The Democratic budget, he explained, would not only raise taxes by $1 trillion, it would spend more money than if government did nothing. The House Republican budget, which reaches balance in ten years, offers “a plan to pay off our debt, and restore government to its “proper size.” It has “changed the conversation” by “talking about solutions.”
“It’s really pretty simple,” he said. “We stop spending money we don’t have. Go figure.” But balancing the budget is only a means to an end, he said. “We’re not just trying to make the numbers add up. We are trying to improve people’s lives.”
“We are on the verge of a debt crisis,” he added, a crisis that must be addressed now by cutting spending, growing the economy, and reforming entitlement programs. Refusing to act would be a “moral failure.” Republicans must embrace their role as the “party of equal opportunity,” and contrast themselves with Democrats, the “party of shared hardship.”
Ryan continued to stress the importance of civil society — the “vast middle ground between the government and the individual” — as an alternative to big government. “We belong to one country, but we also belong to thousands of communities,” he said. “Our vision, our budget, makes room for these communities to grow.”
“When government does too much, it doesn’t do anything well. We need to make this point more often,” he said. “If we listen more closely to the people, we will find that the answers to our problems lie a whole lot closer to home, a whole lot closer than Washington.”