In the short week since Mitt Romney announced Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential pick, many are scrambling to figure out just what exactly is the Ryan budget plan.
Details are scarce in some areas, readily available in others, and the campaign is being understandably quiet about how and when a Romney-Ryan budget plan would reach balance. This is perfectly reasonable given the fact that most campaigns refrain from releasing precise details on winners and losers under a particular candidate’s ideal budget. It’s also understandable because with so many moving pieces, changing growth rates, future GDP estimates, changes in projected revenues and the like, it’s hard enough for the dozens of experts at the Congressional Budget Office to estimate even a few years out what the existing federal budget will look like. It’s reasonable not to expect a campaign to be able to do the same.
However what’s more important than the exact year the federal budget will reach balance under a particular plan is the general approach and trajectory a set of policies will follow with regard to altering the federal budget. It’s in this area that Ryan has made a name for himself for his efforts to restrain spending with the goal of restoring solvency and sustainability to the federal government. He is focused on the gravity of the fiscal situation, and announces loudly at every opportunity what an unsustainable course of spending our nation is on. This means hard choices and unpopular spending cuts because government can’t keep promising more people more things.
As e21 pointed out earlier this week, small tax increases on “the rich” are not enough to pay for the generations of new spending that have been created under the Obama administration. Even if Republicans were to agree to restore the top marginal tax rates to Clinton-era levels, revenues only increase by $55 billion a year. According to estimates by the Senate Finance Committee, a one-year tax increase on those making more than $250,000 annually would pay for just 5 days of federal spending. The continued contention that raising taxes on the rich will dig us out of our fiscal mess just isn’t true. The math just doesn’t work, so the money is going to have to come from somewhere else.
The point that Paul Ryan emphasizes and liberal pundits seem to miss is that all new entitlements and benefits that have been created by this administration have to be paid for by American families. We’re just arguing over which American families will have to pay for it, and the “1 percent” isn’t made up of enough people. Obama is purposely obscuring the massive tax increase on the American middle class that will necessarily have to occur if the current spending is not curtailed. The government doesn’t make money. Everything it spends comes first from an American family.
Whether or not he admits it, the fiscal environment Obama has created is one where middle class families will have to pay vastly more in taxes in order to pay for the new government goodies they're getting. Ryan would restrain spending. That's the choice in this election.
Jennifer Pollom is chief of staff at e21: Economic Policies for the 21st Century and was appropriations and budget counsel for the Senate Republican Policy Committee.