"I place economy among the first and most important virtues, and
public debt as the greatest of dangers to be feared," Thomas Jefferson
once wrote. "To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers
load us with perpetual debt."
Fast forward to 2012, and the notion of "perpetual debt" is no longer
a condition to be avoided. It's a reality we must confront -- a crisis
we must solve. This is especially true because, as Jefferson warned, our
very liberty is at stake if we fail to do so.
Remember the clash on Capitol Hill last year over raising the debt
ceiling? It may have seemed like a huge battle at the time, but it was
merely a holding action -- a rear-guard maneuver to buy a little time.
Because which direction has federal spending gone since then? Up, of
course, soaring toward new record levels and endangering our economic
future. We can't put off the day of reckoning forever.
Fortunately, some members of Congress get it, such as Rep. Paul Ryan
(R-Wisc.), chairman of House Budget Committee. He recently came to speak
at The Heritage Foundation about his proposed budget for fiscal year
(FY) 2013. Titled The Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American
Renewal, it does something too many budget plans fail to do: face
reality, and propose some sensible solutions.
It's not perfect, but there's much to like. Ryan's budget would roll
back the spending excesses of the past, tackle entitlement programs, and
make defense a priority. This may sound like common sense, but many
lawmakers seem content to make meaningless trims, not serious cuts. They
act as if we can allow Social Security and Medicare spending to
continue growing -- and growing -- on autopilot. They seriously think we
can slash defense spending, yet continue fielding a world-class
And they focus on the "revenue side" of the ledger. The problem, they
insist, is that not enough tax money is coming in. The fact that public
debt, at current spending rates, is set to be as big as the U.S.
economy itself by 2023 (just 11 years from now) is ignored. No, you and I
aren't paying enough, that's the problem -- or so we're told. As if
past tax hikes haven't proved, time and again, that government will
quickly consume any additional funds, and then some.
Indeed, we should be reforming taxes. That's why it's good to see
that Ryan's budget would reduce the U.S. corporate tax rate (already the
world's highest) from 35 percent to 25 percent, and reduce the top
individual income rate to the same level, while reforming our complex
and unfair tax code. These changes would reverse the flow of jobs to
foreign countries, improve incentives for workers and businesses to
produce more, and motivate investors and businesses to create new jobs.
Both Ryan's budget and Heritage's plan, Saving the American Dream,
would take another vital step toward bringing the budget under control:
repealing Obamacare. As I've shown in past columns, the law is beyond
fixing. It must go.
Even if Obamacare were constitutional (and it isn't), it makes a bad
fiscal situation far worse. It adds trillions in new spending -- and
billions in new tax hikes. It massively broadens a broken Medicaid
program. It takes a failed price-control model for Medicare -- and
expands it. And it introduces a new subsidy scheme that is financially
unsustainable."We must make our choice between economy and liberty or
profusion and servitude," Jefferson writes. "If we can prevent the
government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretense of
caring for them, they will be happy." Lawmakers should heed the words of
our third president -- and have the courage to steer us off the path of
Ed Feulner is president of The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org).