- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2011


If you keep up with politics, then you have probably heard about the “Path to Prosperity” budget that Chairman Paul Ryan and the House Budget Committee have introduced. You also likely heard that it would save $6 trillion over the next 10 years, reduce the threat of a debt crisis and put America back on a sound fiscal footing.

This budget did something almost unheard of as well: It used the words “Medicare,” “Medicaid,” and “reform” in the same sentence. Yet lightning did not strike Mr. Ryan and rest of us dead on the spot. Amazing.

But now that we have walked the plank by starting a discussion on these issues, it’s fitting to consider what will happen next: This proposal will either become nothing more than fodder for the next round of attack campaign ads or it will open the door to an honest conversation and bold action.

Of course, when it comes to Washington, the first scenario is by far the most likely. Indeed, politicians are much better at winning elections than running the country. And, having seen it happen so many times before, we know how that course of action plays out:

The hyperpartisans on the left will jump up and down screaming that conservatives hate poor people, grandma and want to destroy jobs. The national party will then follow up those talking points by running nasty television ads in the next election in order to scare as many people as humanly possible. The proponents of reform, politically burned from these harsh attacks, will then bury their bold plan to save the country in a dusty box in the back corner of a dark room, never to be taken up again. And finally, those lucky few who actually survive the next election - if they want to stay in politics much longer - will forgo any future boldness for a much safer, party-line approach.

And we will stumble along toward a fiscal nightmare that both sides know is coming, but few are willing to address.

Indeed, if you have watched any news coverage of Democratic reactions to the “Path to Prosperity,” then you know that this chain of events has already been set in motion. In fact, the new head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) suggested that the proposed budget will - wait for it - actually kill people.

So, it looks like business-as-usual in this town is alive and well.

But what if, by some miracle, the second scenario plays out? What if we decide that we aren’t afraid of the scare tactics? And what if citizens see through all the political fearmongering? Imagine what that world would look like.

First of all, it would be a new world of proactive legislation. We could step up and solve our own problems instead of handing them over to unaccountable, unelected commissions. We could protect retirement security instead of offering seniors more empty promises. And, most importantly, we could leave our children and grandchildren a country that is still the “last best hope” for the world, instead of a country that is little more than a shell of its old self.

The good news is that the groundwork for meeting our fiscal challenges is already laid. The American people are way ahead of Washington in that they desperately want the federal government to stop spending a bunch of money we don’t have. Now, it’s up to elected leaders to either tell people the truth about what it would take to fix things and begin working together for a better America or continue the long chain of partisan lies by once again jostling for political advantage.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney is a freshman Republican member of the budget committee from South Carolina.

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