While Washington's eyes are focused on the historic Obamacare hearings at the Supreme Court, work continues across the street in the House of Representatives where some Members of Congress -- though not all -- are doing their best to clean up Washington's budgetary mess.
It has now been 1,064 days since the U.S. Senate passed a budget, the national debt is nearing $16 trillion, and the deficit is at $3 trillion. In the face of this mess, the Republican Study Committee (RSC) yesterday unveiled its plan to balance the budget in five years, and it does so with entitlement reforms, sharp and aggressive spending cuts, avoiding tax hikes, including pro-growth tax reform, and providing for a strong national defense.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), RSC Chairman, and Rep Scott Garrett (R-NJ), also of the committee, issued a statement saying that their plan is a clear, practical way to cut spending and balance the budget -- and that leadership is needed in Washington's budgetless vacuum:
Our country's spiraling debt crisis has reached a tipping point. We need a plan that makes the hard decisions now, not later, to solve our spiraling debt crisis. In the absence of President Obama coming forward to lead our country on the most pressing issue of our time, the RSC stepped up to the plate today by putting forward a bold solution to balance the budget in five years.
The RSC's budget proposal follows the one issued by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), which cuts spending in budget year 2013 and into the future, includes market-based reforms to health entitlements, and features a solid, growth-oriented tax plan. Contrast those plans with President Obama's FY 2013 budget, which delivers a fourth consecutive annual deficit exceeding $1 trillion with spending that rises from $3.8 trillion to $5.8 trillion in 2022.
Or just pause for a moment to consider the Senate's non-efforts. Though it would take Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) only 51 votes to pass a budget resolution, he is instead opting for inaction. As The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore writes, "The reality is that Mr. Reid has made a calculation that Democrats are better off with no budget at all. This allows them to attack Mr. Ryan's cuts to programs like Medicare without Democrats having to show their own hand."
The RSC's plan isn't perfect -- Heritage's Patrick Knudsen says it "falls short in substantiating many of its significant spending cuts with adequate policy detail." Those details are necessary because budgets should be policy driven, not numbers driven. But Knudsen explains that it is, nevertheless, an "ambitious effort aimed at solving the twin crises of spending and debt." Among the plan's features, it contains $3.4 trillion in entitlement savings, repeals Obamacare, includes a solid (though very basic) step for Social Security by gradually raising the retirement age, and adopts Ryan's plan to boldly transform Medicare into a premium support program. Knudsen concludes, "Notwithstanding its limitations, the aims and convictions behind this plan should not be ignored."
Among some quarters, aims and convictions are lacking on Capitol Hill, and leadership on the left is taking a pass on doing anything to get spending under control. And while everyone pays a price for higher debt, including slower economic growth, higher taxes and a lack of entrepreneurial independence, there is one group of Americans much worse off than the rest. America's Debt-Paying Generation -- those who are under 30 -- will struggle throughout their lives to pay down the debt we're racking up today.
Heritage's Saving the American Dream plan offers a fiscal blueprint that all budget proposals should follow -- change and simplify the tax code, cut bureaucratic and regulatory spending, and begin reforming Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid so that those who need it most can count on them. It's a good sign that conservative voices in Washington are offering ideas to help avert America's fiscal disaster. Now it's time for Congress to act on them.