04.03.11

The Coming Budget War: Barack Obama Vs. Paul Ryan

Forget the battle over billions in the federal budget. The real fight will be over the GOP's proposal for 2012, which Rep. Paul Ryan will unveil this week, cutting $4 trillion from the deficit. Mark McKinnon on Obama's response.

Two campaigns kick off this week: one to reelect Barack Obama, and one to save America. Whether those campaigns are joined is up to the president.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, will unveil the GOP’s proposed federal budget for 2012, reportedly cutting more than $4 trillion from the deficit over the next decade through tax, spending, and entitlement reforms.

Forget the continuing resolution battle now over mere billions. The real budget war is coming.

As Pete Wehner writes, Ryan’s plan for real reform “is a political and intellectual undertaking of historic importance... it will rank as arguably the best, most important policy document produced by any Congress in our lifetime.”

But a true war of fiscal ideas and philosophy it will be. And it’s likely to make our other fiscal battles look like skirmishes. Are we still a nation born of personal liberty, opportunity, and self-reliance? Or have we been transformed into a nation controlled by government arrogance, debt, and dependence?

Consider this: More Americans work for the government than work in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining, and utilities—combined.

The number of Americans who pay taxes continues to shrink, and we are nearing the point at which half will not pay taxes for the benefits they receive.

The national debt will total $15.476 trillion by Sept. 30, or 102 percent of the sum total of all economic activity in the nation.

Payroll tax revenue will fall $45 billion short of Social Security benefits owed this year, and the Social Security trust fund will be fully exhausted in 2037.

Despite the sobering reality, the Democratic Party has become the party of “no.” No real cuts to the federal budget. No entitlement reform. No tax reform. And no real leadership.

And the U.S. now ranks near the bottom, 28th of 34 sovereign nations, in terms of financial stability.

Despite the sobering reality, the Democratic Party has become the party of “no.” No real cuts to the federal budget. No entitlement reform. No tax reform. And no real leadership. Even as judged by its own members. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin: “There are some in Washington who believe we can simply ignore the fiscal peril we face as a nation. They are wrong. I will not tell you that we can have everything we want and that there will be no cuts or sacrifice. That would be a lie. I will not stand here and tell you that figuring out our priorities is easy. It is not.”

It’s not easy. That’s why we need bold leadership. Paul Ryan is providing that; President Obama is not.

But even with Ryan’s plan, will D.C. diktats allow for honest debate? With everyone at the table? And everything on the table?

Or has the administration’s messaging already been determined: “The GOP’s budget will cause the deaths of at least 70,000 children around the world.” And the strong-arm tactics set: “ Wisconsin Unions Get Ugly: Now they’re threatening businesses that stay neutral in the state’s budget battle. “

“We are giving [Democrats] a political weapon against us, but look, they’re going to have to lie and demagogue,” Ryan admits. “Shame on them if they do that.”

“We need to engage with the American people on a fact-based budget, on stopping politicians from making empty promises to people and talk to the country about what is necessary to fix these problems,” he tells Fox.

How the entrenched powers in both parties respond to his plan will tell the tale: Is Paul Ryan the last honest broker in Washington?

As vice chairman of Hill & Knowlton and Public Strategies, and president of Maverick Media, Mark McKinnon has helped meet strategic challenges for candidates, corporations and causes, including George W. Bush, John McCain, Ann Richards, Charlie Wilson, Lance Armstrong, and Bono. McKinnon is co-founder of No Labels and co-chair of Arts & Labs.