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Let the grown-ups lead: Paul Ryan describes his proposal to balance the budget

Paul Ryan's Balanced Budget Proposal
Paul Ryan’s Balanced Budget Proposal

In the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

America’s national debt is over $16 trillion. Yet Washington can’t figure out how to cut $85 billion—or just 2% of the federal budget—without resorting to arbitrary, across-the-board cuts. Clearly, the budget process is broken. In four of the past five years, the president has missed his budget deadline. Senate Democrats haven’t passed a budget in over 1,400 days. By refusing to tackle the drivers of the nation’s debt—or simply to write a budget—Washington lurches from crisis to crisis.

House Republicans have a plan to change course. On Tuesday, we’re introducing a budget that balances in 10 years—without raising taxes. How do we do it? We stop spending money the government doesn’t have. Historically, Americans have paid a little less than one-fifth of their income in taxes to the federal government each year. But the government has spent more.

So our budget matches spending with income. Under our proposal, the government spends no more than it collects in revenue—or 19.1% of gross domestic product each year. As a result, we’ll spend $4.6 trillion less over the next decade.

Our opponents will shout austerity, but let’s put this in perspective. On the current path, we’ll spend $46 trillion over the next 10 years. Under our proposal, we’ll spend $41 trillion. On the current path, spending will increase by 5% each year. Under our proposal, it will increase by 3.4%. Because the U.S. economy will grow faster than spending, the budget will balance by 2023, and debt held by the public will drop to just over half the size of the economy.

Yet the most important question isn’t how we balance the budget. It’s why. A budget is a means to an end, and the end isn’t a neat and tidy spreadsheet. It’s the well-being of all Americans. By giving families stability and protecting them from tax hikes, our budget will promote a healthier economy and help create jobs. Most important, our budget will reignite the American Dream, the idea that anyone can make it in this country.

The truth is, the nation’s debt is a sign of overreach. Government is trying to do too much, and when government does too much, it doesn’t do anything well. So a balanced budget is a reasonable goal, because it returns government to its proper limits and focus. By curbing government’s overreach, our budget will give families the space they need to thrive.

Since Obama was elected, he’s added over $5.5 trillion to the national debt. This is not sustainable. We cannot continue to pass on enormous levels of debt to our children so that 30-year-old students can have free condoms bought for them. It is immoral to spend trillions of dollars and then pass the bill to the next generation. Democrats like to talk about helping the children, but really they just want to force them to pay for their wasteful spending. It’s got to stop.

Obama’s fiscal cliff deal leaves us on a path to 200% debt to GDP

From The Hill.

Excerpt:

The nation’s long-term fiscal outlook hasn’t significantly improved following the recent agreement between Congress and the White House over tax and spending issues, according to a new analysis.

The “fiscal cliff” deal, combined with the debt-limit agreement of August 2011, only slightly delays the United States reaching debt-to-gross domestic product levels that would damage the economy and risk another fiscal crisis, according to a report from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation released on Tuesday.

The agreement “may have prevented the immediate threats that the fiscal cliff posed to our fragile economic recovery, but we haven’t remotely fixed the nation’s debt problem,” said Michael A. Peterson, president and COO of the Peterson Foundation.

“The primary goal of any sustainable fiscal policy is to stabilize the debt as a share of the economy and put it on a downward path, and yet our nation is still heading toward debt levels of 200 percent of GDP and beyond,” he said.

The report concludes that the recent round of deficit-reduction measures won’t make major improvements because they fail to address most of the major contributors to the debt and deficit, including rapidly rising healthcare costs. 

[…]At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing last week, lawmakers and budget experts agreed that rising healthcare costs, such as Medicare, must be addressed this year as part of efforts to overhaul the tax code and entitlement programs.

“Until spending in those areas is reduced, tax revenues are increased, or policymakers implement a combination of both, the United States will continue to have a severe long-term debt problem,” the report said.

“Reforms should be implemented gradually, and fiscal improvements must be achieved before our debt level and interest payments are so high that sudden or more draconian reforms are required to avert a fiscal crisis.”

The latest deal that stopped income tax increases for those making $400,000 a year or less may have only improved the burgeoning debt situation by a year.

Scheduled spending cuts from the 2011 budget deal, combined with the fiscal cliff agreement, put the debt on track to reach 200 percent of GDP by 2040, five years later than was projected prior to the passage of the two deals. 

The recent deficit-reduction measure gave the nation an additional year before hitting that 200 percent threshold, the report showed. 

I saw an interesting interview featuring Captain Capitalism in the Washington Times. He thinks that the debt spiral is irreversible.

Excerpt:

DDG: What was your take on the “solution” we saw earlier this month to the so-called fiscal cliff crisis?

Clarey: Band-Aid put on a cut aorta.

DDG: My concern is that inflation is distorting all levels of American society. For example, as prices skyrocket from monetary dilation at the Fed, we have this effect where as Rose Wilder Lane says, everything becomes increasingly more expensive and government starts creating laws and fines just for the purpose of revenue generation. So the formation of a police state and this loss of freedoms is in large part a result of government wanting to get more and more revenues to finance outlays that are being dilated as a result of the inflation they themselves are creating. What’s your take on this?

Clarey: I don’t know if it would be at the police state yet where the federal government comes in and confiscates wealth, as much as it is something much more clandestine. The government likes inflation in that it increases asset prices. Thus when somebody sells an asset – land, stocks, bonds, et cetera – they have to pay a capital gains tax.

Forget whether there was an actual real rate of return for the investor, the government gets to tax the real capital gains and the inflationary capital gains. Inflation also erodes the value of the federal debt, forcing the costs on US treasury holders. However, unless things change, the government will be forced [to cope with] with a simplified problem: Does it inflate its way out of its debts or does it confiscate wealth to pay for it?

I can’t read Paul Krugman and Barack Obama’s minds – if any exist – but I believe they will opt to go the inflationary route to solve the country’s debt problems. If they went the wealth-confiscation route, that would mean nationalizing people’s IRAs, 401(k)s and brokerage accounts much like they did in Argentina and Bulgaria. I fear however, because of their political ideology they have no problems doing both.

I am expecting inflation to continue in the near term, followed by seizing retirement accounts if the Democrats take back the House in 2014. The amnesty of 12 million illegal immigrants should give them that. So, if you have a plan to escape this, you’d better execute it in the two years. The clock is ticking.

Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity plan balances the budget without raising taxes

Americans for Tax Reform explains what’s in it.

Excerpt:

The main details are:

Revenue neutrality.  The budget calls for the House Ways and Means Committee to produce a tax reform package with a tax revenue target of between 18 and 19 percent of GDP.  This is in line with historical revenue figures.  By contrast, big government budgets like “Gang of Six,” “Simpson-Bowles,” and the Obama budget call for a long-range revenue target of over 20 percent of GDP.  The Ryan budget is a no tax hikes budget.

Six personal rates down to two.  The Ryan budget replaces the current six-rate personal income tax structure (10, 15, 25, 28, 33, and 35 percent) with a two-rate system of 10 and 25 percent.  This will result in a lower tax rate on the majority of small business profits, from 33 or 35 percent down to 25 percent.

Repeals Obamacare tax hikes.  The Ryan budget eliminates the entire Obamacare law.  This includes repealing the 20 new or higher taxes which have taken or are about to take effect from that law.

Eliminate the AMT.  The Ryan budget eliminates the AMT, instead favoring a simpler system with lower rates and a broad tax base.

Lower rates on businesses.  As said above, the Ryan budget lowers the tax rate on the majority of small business profits to 25 percent.  It also lowers the federal income tax rate on larger corporate employers from 35 percent (the highest in the developed world) to 25 percent (closer to the developed nation average).  While this makes American companies more competitive, it would still leave us with a higher corporate income tax rate than the developed nation average, Canada, and the United Kingdom.  In order to make us truly internationally-competitive, the federal rate must fall to 20 percent or less.

No more picking winners and losers in the tax code.  In order to target revenues at 18-19 percent of GDP with tax rates no higher than 25 percent, the Ways and Means Committee will have to curtail or eliminate most tax exclusions, adjustments, deductions, and credits.  That means that all consumed income will be taxed once and only once.  No longer will the tax code favor one type of economic behavior over another.

Moves tax code from “worldwide taxation” to “territoriality.”  The Ways and Means Committee is directed to shift our tax code from one which seeks to tax income earned all over the world to one which only seeks to tax income earned in America.  This is known as “territoriality,” and it’s already been adopted by and large by our trading competitors.  By retaining a worldwide tax regime, we’re exposing our own countries to double taxation–once when they pay the foreign nation’s income tax, and again when they try to bring the money home.

This is what the budget does: (Debt as % of GDP)

Paul Ryan's 2013: The Path to Prosperity
Paul Ryan's 2013: The Path to Prosperity

Doug Ross has three nice charts explaining the details.

Is Barack Obama going to do anything about the debt?

According to CBS News, Obama has exploded our national debt, so there is no reason to trust anything he says about reducing the debt.

Excerpt:

The National Debt has now increased more during President Obama’s three years and two months in office than it did during 8 years of the George W. Bush presidency.

The Debt rose $4.899 trillion during the two terms of the Bush presidency. It has now gone up $4.939 trillion since President Obama took office.

The latest posting from the Bureau of Public Debt at the Treasury Department shows the National Debt now stands at $15.566 trillion. It was $10.626 trillion on President Bush’s last day in office, which coincided with President Obama’s first day.

The National Debt also now exceeds 100% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, the total value of goods and services.

Mr. Obama has been quick to blame his predecessor for the soaring Debt, saying Mr. Bush paid for two wars and a Medicare prescription drug program with borrowed funds.

The federal budget sent to Congress last month by Mr. Obama, projects the National Debt will continue to rise as far as the eye can see. The budget shows the Debt hitting $16.3 trillion in 2012, $17.5 trillion in 2013 and $25.9 trillion in 2022.

[…]His latest budget projects a $1.3 trillion deficit this year declining to $901 billion in 2012, and then annual deficits in the range of $500 billion to $700 billion in the 10 years to come.

If Mr. Obama wins re-election, and his budget projections prove accurate, the National Debt will top $20 trillion in 2016, the final year of his second term. That would mean the Debt increased by 87 percent, or $9.34 trillion, during his two terms.

Some of Bush’s debt total can be explained by considering that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid raised the debt by $5 trillion dollars over 4 years when they took control of the House and Senate in January of 2007. But they’re Democrats, and that’s what Democrats do.

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