A Real Balanced Budget Proposal

When a budget like Rep. Paul Ryan’s, which has us racking up trillions more in debt over the next few years, is denounced as draconian and radical, you know there’s no connection between rhetoric and reality in Washington, D.C. Presumably it hasn’t been radical for the U.S. government to make promises it can’t possibly keep or borrow $14 trillion it never plans to pay back. Nope, that’s just prudent statesmanship.

It’s nice, though, to see a few people thinking outside the box. In fact, an actual proposal to balance the budget in five years was introduced by Sen. Rand Paul yesterday. You can view the press release with links to the full proposal and executive summaries here.

The problem with most of the proposals put forward by the so-called budget hawks is that while they aim to get federal spending down to the historic average of 20% of GDP, federal tax receipts have hardly ever exceeded 18% of GDP, even in the Left’s halcyon days of 91% income tax rates on the top tier of earners. They don’t solve the structural debt issue.

Sen. Paul’s budget leaves Social Security and Medicare where they are over the next five years, and balances the budget mainly by sharply reducing non-defense discretionary spending. Politically this is smart, since most of the opprobrium attaching to Rep. Ryan’s budget is the result of his proposed changes to Medicare. Paul’s budget does mandate that Congress come with a solution to the big entitlement programs by 2016, to be implemented by 2017 (good luck with that).

There are defense cuts, too, although they are pretty modest (6% for FY 2012), and war funding for Iraq and Afghanistan remains. A lot of that should go eventually, but that a Republican would countenance any defense cuts at all is encouraging.

I realize that no one in the leadership of any party will look twice at this proposal, but it’s still valuable to show that it is possible to balance the budget given the political will. And then Rand Paul can tell Reid, McConnell, and Obama “I told you so” when the bond market punishes us for our spendthrift ways.

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About Dr. J

I am Professor of Humanities at Faulkner University, where I chair the Department of Humanities and direct online M.A. and Ph.D. programs based on the Great Books of Western Civilization. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy and a member of the faculty at Liberty Classroom.
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