The House Budget

The most important aspect of the House budget is that it exists at all. Budgets, as the saying goes, are policy. And policy choices are statements of the values of our nation. The Democratic leadership in the Senate has not provided a budget in three years. What values does that reflect? 

The president has run deficits of over $1 trillion dollars for four straight years, has presided over the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression, was handed a stinging rebuke by voters in November 2010, and yet continues to issue budgets festooned with anti-growth tax hikes, bloated spending, and ever-increasing debt. They are devoid of the tax and entitlement reforms that his own fiscal-reform commission identified as central to addressing a national “moment of truth.” What values does that reflect?

The House budget is a blueprint to avert what Erskine Bowles (co-chair of the aforementioned fiscal commission) called “the most predictable crisis in history” by getting the federal debt under control — and ultimately eliminating it. It undertakes fundamental tax reform of the personal-income tax, alternative-minimum taxes, and corporation-income tax, moving to an internationally competitive, pro-growth approach to raising the same revenue as under current policy. It addresses the woes of a social safety net that is serving its beneficiaries poorly, is hemorrhaging red ink, and is on track to fall under its own financial weight. It preserves core functions of government such as national security. 

It does all of those things even though last year’s House budget also did those things — and ran into a hailstorm of presidentially led demagoguery. What kind of values does that reflect?

Much of the discussion surrounding the budget will focus on numbers — debts, deficits, revenues, and so forth. And some will focus on the mechanics of the budget policy — reconciliation instructions, premium support, territorial tax systems, and the like. 

But I think the most important discussion is about values. The House budget is a strong statement of social, economic, and political values. It is courageous at a time when presidential leadership is weak. It is honest at a time when Americans are misled into believing that they can keep “Medicare as we know it,” expand the welfare state, control the debt, remain safe, and . . . tax only the 1 percent. 

It should be the legislative agenda for 2012. I hope it is the agenda for 2013.

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