President Obama repeatedly insists that we need a “balanced approach” to dealing with our annual deficits, which have been twice as high during his tenure as during any other post-World War II presidency. In a memo sent yesterday to Republican colleagues, Paul Ryan responds to Obama’s claim with three main points:
1.) “As Speaker Boehner stated earlier today: ‘Most Americans would say that a “balanced” approach is a simple one: the Administration gets its debt limit increase, and the American people get their spending cuts and their reforms.’” 2.) “The House already passed a budget that puts us on the path to balance, and will vote next week on a Balanced Budget Amendment.” 3.) “To get to fiscal balance…two critical elements [are] required: spending restraint and economic growth. Tax hikes adversely undercut both of these key ingredients.”
Moreover, Ryan observes, “The last time there was a bipartisan budget agreement, it balanced the budget by cutting spending and cutting taxes. The 1997 bipartisan budget agreement between President Clinton and a Republican Congress balanced the budget by bringing spending down to 18.2% of [the] gross domestic product.” In comparison, Obama’s 10-year budget, which was defeated 97-0 in the Senate, calls for spending 24 percent of GDP in the first year, 24 percent of GDP in the tenth 10, and 24 percent of GDP on average across the 10-year budgetary window — according to the Congressional Budget Office.
So to balance the budget with Obama’s proposed level of spending, Americans would have to pay 24 percent of GDP in taxes — and that still wouldn’t make a dent in our existing $14.491 (and counting) trillion debt. Even at the height of World War II, when Americans’ taxes reached their highest point as a percentage of GDP in our nation’s entire history, they never exceeded even 21 percent of GDP (see White House Historical Table 1.3).
Perhaps President Obama needs to adjust his notion of a “balanced approach,” since his current notion doesn’t remotely square with any prior moment in American history.
To see more of Ryan’s memo, courtesy of Jennifer Rubin, see here. Rubin writes, “Once again we see that Ryan is the most effective spokesman and advocate for Republicans, in part because he is thoroughly versed in the details. Imagine if he were to debate Obama. In the fall of 2012. On national TV. With the presidency at stake. Is there any doubt who would come off better?”
In that spirit, last week Ryan tweeted the following to Obama’s Twitter town hall: “Fearmongering won’t solve our debt crisis. Americans deserve a real debate. You pick: when and where?” There’s one way he’ll get his chance.