The Corner

Priming the Path to Prosperity

Before a major road is paved the ground must be cleared, the land must be graded, and a strong base must be installed. Otherwise, the road may crumble.

Such is the case with the bold plan proposed by Budget chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.). Congress must lay a strong foundation for Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” by first passing a constitutional balanced-budget amendment.

As President Obama asks Congress to increase the debt limit for the fourth time since he has entered office, Ryan’s Path to Prosperity stands out as a hopeful alternative to the Democrats’ failing “borrow more to spend more” policies. Ryan’s plan would reduce deficits by $4.4 trillion over the next 10 years by reducing federal spending and enacting commonsense entitlement reform. On cue, Democrats are launching dishonest attacks in reaction to the plan.

It’s obvious Congress will never have the “adult conversation” about stopping America’s fiscal that President Obama has called for decline, until members of Congress are forced by law to work together and balance the budget.

That’s why Republicans are beginning to insist that there will be no vote on a debt limit increase without first passing the balanced-budget amendment. Passing the balanced-budget amendment is necessary ground work for the Path to Prosperity.

The Ryan plan, by itself, relies on the good will of many future Congresses not to raise taxes. But the Ryan plan, reinforced by a balanced-budget amendment, would force every Congress by law to balance the budget by cutting spending instead of raising taxes.

Without a balanced-budget amendment Democrats — in order to preserve the current levels of spending and structure of our entitlement programs — would have to raise all federal taxes by 88 percent. Eighty-eight percent. This figure is backed by a 2011 International Monetary Fund study (as noted by National Review’s Kevin Williamson) that concluded it would require an 88 percent increase on taxes, including individual taxes and payroll taxes, in order to close the fiscal gap. The Democrat 88 Percent Tax-Hike Solution would immobilize our economy and crush job creation for years to come.

It is crucial for Republicans to take actions now that will prevent liberals from increasing taxes to replenish money the Ryan plan would save.

Wisely, the Senate Republicans’ balanced-budget amendment requires a two-thirds majority to raise taxes. The balanced-budget amendment will force Congress to cut spending, rather than increase taxes, to balance the budget.

The choice is simple. Congress can pass a balanced-budget amendment to pave the way for the Path to Prosperity, or yield the way for Democrats to campaign for massive tax increases.

Balancing the budget is a momentous task. The country is $14 trillion in debt and borrows 40 cents of every dollar it spends. Cutting wasteful spending and passing reforms to save Medicare and Social Security are the only ways Congress can avert what Erskine Bowles, the co-chair of President Obama’s fiscal commission, who has praised Ryan’s plan, has called “the most predictable economic crisis in history.”

Ryan’s Path to Prosperity is a courageous proposal that deserves the care and attention to ensure it is laid properly. Congress must waste no time priming the path.

— Jim DeMint is a U.S. senator from South Carolina.


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