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Paul Ryan’s budget should dismiss any notion that the new Congress is not serious about reform. Previously, critics might chirp that any proposed cuts were merely for political points, but now the Budget Committee chairman’s proposal tackles out-of-control entitlement spending head-on and calls for reducing wasteful defense spending as well—not a traditional goal of previous Republican establishments. While not everyone has agreed with every detail, there is a consensus among conservatives and independent thinkers that the budget is bold and that it addresses issues that need to be addressed.
The budget’s boldness does not mean that it is the same plan that Freedomworks would have put forward. On defense spending, for instance, Congress might have taken up Secretary Gates’s request for less funding. Fiscal conservatives should scrutinize department secretaries who ask for budget increases, but when the Secretary of Defense asks for his budget to be decreased by $145 billion, he should probably be given the benefit of the doubt.
But these minor details are not enough to off-set the significance of the overall proposal. This proposal will hopefully be the beginning of a serious conversation on the nation’s fiscal future. In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama claimed he would "reduce taxes for 95% of Americans." Actually, only 60% of Americans pay taxes, making this feat impossible, but never mind; more important is that the top 5% of income earners don’t have enough to cover out-of-control spending. As David Brooks recently wrote: “Raising taxes on the rich will not [cover the future costs of welfare programs]. There aren’t enough rich people to generate the tens of trillions of dollars required to pay for Medicare, let alone all the other programs.”
The White House is going to have to get real if it wants to be part of the solution to our fiscal crisis and not part of the problem. This administration has been oblivious to the country’s long-term needs for too long. It might be too much to expect fiscal conservatism from an explicitly leftwing administration, but Democratic governors are beginning to acknowledge that their states need to cut spending to get their houses in order. It is now up to the president to take a page out of his fellow Democratic executives’ books.