MILLER: Backbone in the budget season

Conservatives push for a balanced budget in the near-term

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You can always count on politicians to max out their credit line. Plans for 2013 already have Washington nearing the spending limit set last summer in the Budget Control Act. Congressional Republicans struck that deal with President Obama, letting him raise the debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion in exchange for less spending. Spending has gone up, and now congressional conservatives are trying to stop the runaway red ink.

On Thursday, freshman Sen. Rand Paul released a strategy to balance the budget in only five years. The Kentucky Republican’s bold proposal would pay off $2 trillion of the national debt within 10 years - a timeframe unheard of anywhere else on Capitol Hill. The Departments of Energy, Education, Commerce and Housing and Urban Development would be closed.

The biggest drivers of the debt - social entitlement programs - would be reformed with provisions like giving Medicare recipients the same health plans as members of Congress. Foreign aid would be limited to $5 billion a year. The dysfunctional Transportation Security Agency would be privatized. A 17 percent flat tax for individuals and corporations would encourage growth, and thus increase revenue.

Last year, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan produced a budget with real entitlement reform, but even under this powerful spending blueprint it would have taken 30 years for Uncle Sam to break even. Mr. Ryan’s new budget is expected in two weeks, with a vote before the April 15 statutory deadline.

The Republican Study Committee’s (RSC) budget outline from last year known as Cut, Cap and Balance has become the economic platform for all the Republican presidential candidates. Rep. Jim Jordan, the RSC chairman, is drafting a budget for this year that will again bring balance within 10 years.

“When your debt is bigger than your economy, it’s not where you want to be - it’s Greece or Italy. And the window to fix this is rapidly closing,” the Ohio congressman told The Washington Times in an interview. “We need to show the American people what will be done if they give Republicans the chance to govern in the House, Senate and White House next year.”

Mr. Jordan also wants the House to address the automatic $97 billion sequestration in 2013 in a realistic way, which means lowering the budget limit by that amount in discretionary spending. The result would bring spending back to the 2008 level, before Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats went hog-wild with the credit card.

Rank-and-file members like Budget Committee and RSC member Rep. Tom McClintock want to get as much bang for the buck as possible. “Our 2012 budget set us on course to balance the budget by mid-2030s and pay off entire debt by mid-2040s,” the California Republican told The Washington Times. “That’s where I draw the line in the sand. I would support any plan that brings balance sooner than that.”

The Democratic Senate hasn’t produced a budget in three years and isn’t likely to start now. President Obama’s budget was a fiscal disaster and, thus, is irrelevant to the process. Conservative Republicans are offering an alternative future by showcasing how they would balance the books and chip away at the debt if given full control in Washington in November.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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