By Rep. Paul Ryan
As we mark the first anniversary of President Obama’s administration, it is clear that the reality of his agenda bears little resemblance to the hopeful vision most Americans had when he was inaugurated last January.
Without question, our nation faced a particularly difficult economic and fiscal situation at that time — the economic recession, mounting job losses, unrelenting health care costs, and the unsustainable path of Federal spending and looming entitlement crisis.
But instead of pursuing bipartisan solutions to tackle our most urgent domestic challenges, Washington’s Democratic leaders chose to go-it alone, exploiting Americans’ genuine economic anxieties to justify an explosion of Federal Government spending, intrusion and control.
This included the trillion-dollar, debt-financed economic “stimulus”; a budget that would double the debt in five years and triple it in 10; and the start of a government takeover of the Nation’s energy sector, housing and financial markets, and the auto industry. Of course, this also includes the ongoing pass-at-all-costs drive to takeover Americans’ medical care.
All told, the Congress and White House have in a single year pushed through legislation that will boost spending by $3.7 trillion over the next decade, raise taxes by nearly $1.5 trillion, and increase deficits and debt by $1.8 trillion.
Americans have become increasingly alarmed by this unrelenting deficit-financed spending binge. They’re right to be. But I fear that those who will be most affected by the past year’s actions are those who have the least control over — and the most to lose from — this agenda: our children.
Should we continue down this course — in which we attempt to answer every question with ever-higher Washington spending, fueled by ever-higher taxes and debt — it is our children who will bear the greatest burden for our failings.
And as alarming as today’s $1.4 trillion deficit is, our nation’s long-term debt projections are almost inconceivably worse.
The past year’s explosion of spending — combined with the failure to begin critical reforms to our largest, least sustainable entitlement programs — has hastened America’s march down a fiscal path on which our health and retirement security programs collapse; we condemn future generations to a crushing burden of debt and taxes; and our economy is crippled and unable to compete in the international marketplace, let alone lead.
In fact, by the time my three kids are my age, they will have to pay twice the taxes we pay today just to keep the government afloat; and that assumes no new programs, no new spending — double the taxes just to maintain today’s status quo.
Incredibly, Washington’s only recognized plan forward is to dig our fiscal and economic hole even deeper.
And these are just the fiscal consequences of this approach. Perhaps most troubling is what it will do to the unique character of America. Because all the “benefits” of “progressive” government come at the expense of personal initiative, the vitality of local communities, and the creativity of the business sector.
If we resign to accept this, we are making a clear — perhaps irreversible choice — and that is to trade much of our freedom to have Washington take over much of our lives. If we continue down this path, it will mark this period in history as the moment when our Great American Experiment ceased, and the transition to the European model began in earnest.
I find this future unacceptable for my own children, or for any American. This is not our destiny. I believe we can, and must, seize this precious window of opportunity to set a better course.
That’s why later this month I will offer an update to my own comprehensive alternative to the heavily government-centered ambitions of Washington’s current leaders. In 2008, I introduced a plan I call A Roadmap to America’s Future that draws on Americans’ strength and initiative to restore our nation’s long-held legacy of leaving the next generation better off. I am now working on a new version of that plan, updated to reflect the dramatic decline in our nation’s economic and fiscal situation, while still achieving the following key objectives:
First, it will ensure universal access to health insurance by removing the distortions and inequities in the health care market; it will rescue and strengthen Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security — allowing them to fulfill their missions and making them permanently solvent.
Second, it will return Federal spending growth to sustainable levels, and remove the massive future debt burden on your children and mine.
And third — by reforming our tax code and taming Washington’s spending — it will promote sustained economic growth with an ever-increasing number of good-paying American jobs, and put the U.S. in a position to once again lead, not merely survive, in the global economy.
Roadmap 2.0 will be a complete legislative proposal consisting of specific policies backed up by sound, credible estimates of its fiscal and economic consequences.
To be clear, it is not simply a slimmer version of the “progressive” government expansion that Washington Democrats are pursuing. Roadmap will call for a frank assessment of how the Federal Government can continue to meet the missions of our largest entitlements in the 21st century while restraining spending, and hence the size of government itself. It rejuvenates a vibrant market economy, and restores the American character — rooted in individual initiative, entrepreneurship, and opportunity.
It’s unlikely that everyone will agree with every aspect of my proposal, and that’s fine. My hope is that it will spur all Americans — rich and poor, old and young, Democrat and Republican — to not only take a hard look down the dangerous path our country is headed, but also to become actively involved in restoring our ability — and long-held legacy — of leaving the next generation of Americans better off.