There's Nothing 'Limited' About Ryan's Balanced Budget
In a Republican Party that seemingly no longer believes or understands its limited government rhetoric, Rep. Paul Ryan has long been an outlier. Much like his late mentor in Jack Kemp, Ryan has always given the impression that he supports light taxation, limited government and stable money values precisely because they would do the most to lift the economic chances of those least well to do.
That's why Ryan's latest budget proposal is such a disappointment. In proclaiming that his plan will balance revenues and spending by 2023, it's apparent that Ryan's lost the reformist fire that used to set him apart from his fellow Republicans. In promising to balance the federal budget, Ryan has very much made plain that he's given up any pretense of shrinking the burden that is government.
To understand why, it has to be remembered that there's nothing "small government" about balanced budgets. This is particularly true in the United States.
Thinking about the U.S., and Ryan no doubt knows this well, Americans are easily some of the most productive people on earth. Because they are, and because their private output is enormous, the federal government collects gargantuan sums on an annual basis thanks to its power to tax.
Ryan observes that his budget "returns government to its proper limits and focus," but even he must have chuckled when he typed out what is so plainly untrue. When we consider how very limiting is our founding document in the Constitution, it's surely laughable that Ryan's 10-year, $41 trillion dollar budget will return government "to its proper limits and focus." More likely it's the opposite, particularly when we consider that Ryan is in no way talking about reducing annual federal spending. Instead, and this is typical of Washington budgeting, Ryan's merely talking about reductions in planned increases in federal spending. Or, as he puts it, "On the current path, spending will increase by 5% each year. Under our proposal, it will increase by 3.4%."
Taking this further, would readers prefer annual deficits of $500 billion on $1 trillion in spending, or a balanced federal budget of $4.1 trillion in 2023 as Ryan promises? The answer should be obvious, but if it's not, the deficit-infused $1 trillion dollar budget is the one that would make us much better off economically.
Indeed, lost on the deficit worriers is the simple truth that a dollar is a dollar is a dollar. Deficits aren't the problem, but the level of federal spending is. Whether we're financing deficit spending or paying for it all with incoming federal revenues is of no economic consequence; the real burden being the dollars taxed or borrowed to fund that which is unproductive and that exists at the expense and often to the detriment of the profit-disciplined private sector.
Considering the above in light of the Ryan's balanced budget proposal, assuming what's unlikely, that the Ryan plan prevails as written, the economy-smothering burden that is our federal government will continue to grow - substantially. This would be true for any country, but it's particularly true for a country such as ours full of the most economically productive people on earth. Balanced budgets are far from an impressive feat in a country populated by talented people whose economic exploits will generate massive amounts of taxable income and gains. In short, to balance the federal budget in the U.S. is to grow the size and scope of government immensely, and because the latter is true, Ryan shouldn't dilute his small-government brand with a balanced budget plan offered up under the false pretense of parsimony.
The logical answer to the above is that the days of small government are over, and that Ryan's doing the best he can in consideration of a federal government no longer limited by the Constitution. Ryan apologists would add that even under his existing proposal he'll be pilloried by lefty politicians and their media enablers as the ultimate Austerian; stingily taking away Grandma's healthcare. Of course the latter explains why Ryan should have gone for broke, and actually proposed shrinking the size of the federal government.
Indeed, as evidenced by the false adjectives that will be attached to Ryan's budget no matter its size, the traditional media were and are going to attack him. That being the case, Ryan should have proposed something that's actually meaningful when it comes to shrinking our federal burden. The traditional media would have hit him hard, much as they're doing now, but in proposing real cuts he would have ensured a real debate about the proper role of government. Also, it must be remembered that the mainstream or traditional media we've long known is not the powerful force that it once was. Thanks to the internet, Americans are not as a reliant anymore on traditional sources for their news. While the New York Times would and will report negatively on any Paul Ryan budget, Americans are less and less reliant on the Times for analysis of matters political and economic.
After that, Ryan surely knows that it's heavy government spending that represents austerity and slow growth, while lower spending represents a reduction in the certain economic burden that is our federal government. If Republicans, and in particular Paul Ryan, can't make the latter case, then welcome to the minority. Put simply, Republicans will never win the battle over who can best redistribute wealth. On the other hand, they can win the argument if they use history and logic to explain to the voters that the federal government is their burden in terms of lower wages and reduced job opportunities. Paul Ryan surely understands this, and that's why his federal government expanding ‘balanced budget' is such a disappointment.