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Tags: Balanced Budgets

Ryan: I Have a Clear View of Our Nation’s Altered Trajectory



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Rep. Paul Ryan stopped by National Review’s Washington offices today. Towards the end of the meeting, I asked him about the contrast in his life in the past year — last autumn, when he spent every day in the white-hot spotlight running for vice president, and now, when he’s back chairing the House Budget Committee. I asked whether a part of him felt happy to be back in his budget-policy element.

“No, I actually wished I was doing something different,” Ryan said with a laugh. “I had a different vision than this.”

“I guess one of the most distressing things is that . . . I worked with Mike Leavitt — after my debate was done, I got to jump into the transition planning more. Mitt had two more debates to go. So I worked with Mike Leavitt and Chris Liddell and his team on the transition plan. And knowing what we were going to do in the first 200 days, how we were going to tackle the entitlement problems, the debt crisis, tax reform, energy exploration, all the things we said were going to do, we were going to do. And we were really getting down to the specifics. Losing the election and now seeing where the country is headed in this kind of level of detail . . . [holding up a summary of President Obama’s budget proposal, unveiled today] . . . Very few people have such a clear view of the whole alteration of trajectory that has occurred. And that’s obviously . . . I won’t say it’s despairing, it’s distressing, I’m distressed. I gave up despair for Lent this year,” he joked.

“I look at the situation now, and I do what you have to do as a legislator: make the best of a situation as it is, and try to improve things. I want to get an agreement to get a down payment on this problem to buy the country time, and help create some space for economic growth. But it’s distressing that all of these things are happening — I think Obamacare is going to destroy health care. I think the tax code is holding us back. I think we’re on the cusp of an energy renaissance, if we allow it happen, that could be a game changer for America. I think they’re regulating jobs out of existence with uncertainty. We could have changed all that. But we didn’t. So let’s go to Plan B, which is make the best of it.”

Tags: Balanced Budgets , Barack Obama , Mitt Romney , Paul Ryan

Balancing the Budget on the Backs of Metaphors



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Over in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, I had a piece looking at one of President Obama’s favorite phrases, a charge that his opponents want to “balance the budget on the backs of [insert key demographic here].”

He has accused the GOP of wishing to “balance the budget on the backs of” veterans, the middle-class and working people in this country, the very people who have borne the biggest brunt of this recession, seniors, and students.

Of course, so enormous is our $1.6 trillion deficit and $14 trillion debt that you couldn’t balance the budget on the backs of any of these groups, or even those of Obama’s favorite target, the rich. Nor do many of the plans he’s denouncing actually “balance the budget” instead of merely making the deficit somewhat less appalling. Yet the claims of budgetary targeting are ubiquitous:

Sometimes, users of the back-burden metaphor fail completely, forgetting that their definition of those whose backs are being broken extends well beyond their particular interest group. In a Washington Post article about states facing immense crises with their pension funds for state workers, J. Michael Downey, a plumber and president of Rhode Island Council 94 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents 8,000 state and local government workers, said: “They are going to fix this for Rhode Island on the backs of people who have worked their entire lives.”

First, it’s not remarkable that these public employees have worked their entire lives; they’re public-sector workers, so they’ve never seen mass layoffs such as those their peers in the private sector have endured in recent years. Second, if budget-balancing efforts should spare “people who have worked their entire lives,” how about all of those taxpayers?

Third, here are the radical moves that have stirred the ire of Downey’s union: lowering retirement payments, replacing part of the guaranteed pensions with 401(k)-type accounts, and reducing automatic 3 percent cost-of-living increases enjoyed by retirees. (Since 1975, the Social Security Administration has calculated the cost of living to be 3 percent or higher in four of the last 18 years; in 2009 and 2010, the COLA remained flat.) For new hires, the retirement age has been raised from 60 . . . to 62. To most private-sector workers, that still looks like a pretty sweet deal.

There’s a spectacular narcissism to the complaint that one’s own group is being asked to shoulder the entire burden of balancing the budget. The broken-back metaphor is the mark of the political drama queen, hoping for mass public sympathy.

Unsurprisingly, I heard from some Inquirer readers insisting that “the crooks” should pay for it; I would urge all of those with knowledge of “the crooks” to call their local U.S. Attorney’s office.

Tags: Balanced Budgets , Barack Obama

Texas Scandalizes Liberals



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Today’s breaking news: Texas took stimulus money. Yeah, I know — breaking news from eons ago. The Left is currently engaged in a fairly transparent campaign to discredit governor Rick Perry and the Texas model of limited, pay-as-you-go government, largely because Democrats cannot abide the idea of a state with a strong economy and no income tax. Former economist Paul Krugman is leading that particular chorus, and the recent nattering from the likes of Jon Chait and Kos over the state’s accepting federal stimulus funds is silly. It is also a rather naked attempt to defuse the continued disgust with Democrats inspired by that particularly spectacular pork-a-thon: “See! See! Republicans took the money, too!”

If Rick Perry had had his way, there would have been no stimulus bill of the sort we saw and will be paying for (for a long, long time). Yes, that would have made balancing Texas’s budget more difficult — to the tune of $6.6 billion in a state with a $1.2 trillion economy. Shock, horror, etc. Texas had more than enough money in its reserves to cover that sum. Perry could have gutted those reserves to make a political point, but he chose not to. That is prudence, not grandstanding. It does not make the stimulus any less of a national shame.

Republicans lost the stimulus fight but are under no special obligation to leave money sitting on the table when Uncle puts it out there, which Texas did rather than tap the billions in its rainy-day fund. If I had my way, there would be no Social Security or federal highway system, but I’ll drive on the interstates, anyway: They’re there, and I pay for them, and I am under no obligation to deny myself the use of the things Joe Government funds out of the money extorted from me. If Texas could have negotiated a deal whereby it neither received stimulus payments nor saw its citizens put on the hook for funding them, I suspect Texas might have taken that deal — just as I would  opt out of Social Security today (yesterday!) if I had a choice. But to treat it as a scandal that a state is accepting some of the money being appropriated from its residents is boneheaded.

Texas’s government revenue is running about $15 billion less than expected this time around. So, what is the state doing? Senate Republicans have just submitted a bill that will — radical idea! — limit spending to the available revenue. AP:

The Senate bill calls for $73.8 billion in expenditures, exactly what the state comptroller said Texas will earn in revenues over the next two years.

The state agencies and the bureaucrats’ lobby want about $100 billion. They are not going to get it. That’s what legislatures are for — not that you’d know from the way our national one operates.

Chait and Krugman cannot abide by Texas’s “Just Say No” model of appropriations, because they are ideologically beholden to the belief that people cannot thrive without a very robust and paternalistic state to mind them. But they can, and do — and, once the bond markets get done with Washington, they will, nationally.

—  Kevin D. Williamson is a deputy managing editor of National Review and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism, just published by Regnery. You can buy an autographed copy through National Review Online here.

Tags: Balanced Budgets , Debt , Deficits , Despair , Paul Krugman , States

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