Ryan's Budget

Submitted by kvaughn on Fri, 05/06/2011 - 01:00

The Congressional budget process is actually quite reasonable when properly followed. The process requires Congress to first agree to a budget resolution that defines the priorities in the budget. This is then followed by legislation that implements the goals identified in the budget resolution. The key to making this process work is to start from a point of bipartisan agreement in establishing common priorities and then leave the details to later debates, always having the debates point back to the common priorities.

While there is much that I like about the Ryan budget resolution, I am concerned that it overreaches when it attempts to dictate how we achieve the goals of debt reduction. For example, it suggests that we should reduce Medicare spending by privatizing the Medicare system through a voucher approach. As a result, the Republicans essentially imply that this is the only way that we can reduce Medicare spending, and the Democrats then complain that the Republicans are just trying to line the pockets of the insurance companies. The end result is that we return to gridlock with a lot of finger-pointing across the aisle. This is so predictable, one has to wonder if either side is really that serious about the budget.

If we are to solve our country's spending problem, we must get beyond these tactics and standard talking points. We must identify our shared objectives, document them, and then have a debate as to how we reach them without demonizing the other side. This is why my budget proposal focuses on the budget numbers rather than the budget policies.

The vast majority of Americans believe that we have a moral obligation to eliminate our national debt so that we do not force our children to pay the interest on the money that we borrowed. Thus, these discussions should start with a resolution to eliminate the debt within a defined time frame (perhaps 20-40 years). We should then extend this resolution to identify debt targets for each year so that we can properly measure our progress to reach our goal. This will lead us to identify how large a deficit or surplus we will allow for the next fiscal year. 

Once we know the target surplus or deficit, we can then determine the expected revenue for the year and then determine our total budget. Finally, once we know our total budget, we can assign amounts into each category. That produces the budget resolution of shared values. It forces us to define how much money is actually available without worrying about the details of how we get there (e.g., privatization, nationalization, etc.).

It really just comes down to priorities. My priority is based on my belief that we have a moral obligation to eliminate our debt so that we do not steal money from our children. I have preferences with regard to how we achieve that goal, but priority number one is to achieve that goal. My concern about the Ryan budget is that it proposes mechanisms that are opposed by half of Congress to achieve the goal. As a result, Representative Connolly is already attacking the proposal - without providing any alternative proposal. My approach would force Connolly, along with all members of the House, to first go on record as to whether they believe we should balance the budget and, if so, how much can we afford for Medicare. Then, once we have agreement on how much we will spend, we can then have the debate over how that money should be spent.

I hope you agree that this is a superior approach to developing a responsible bipartisan budget and encourage you to provide your comments. I also encourage you to donate to my campaign so that we can actually implement this sort of change in Congress.