Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This Budget Battle Defines the Future

Read, if you can obtain it, Arthur Brooks' latest article in the Wall Street Journal - "The Debt Ceiling and the Pursuit of Happiness".  Example:
. . . [B]udget reformers need to remember three things. First, this is not a political fight between Republicans and Democrats; it is a fight against 50-year trends toward statism. Second, it is a moral fight, not an economic one. Third, this is not a fight that anyone can win in the 15 months from now to the presidential election. It will take hard work for at least a decade.

Consider a few facts. The Bureau of Economic Analysis tells us that total government spending at all levels has risen to 37% of gross domestic product today from 27% in 1960—and is set to reach 50% by 2038. The Tax Foundation reports that between 1986 and 2008, the share of federal income taxes paid by the top 5% of earners has risen to 59% from 43%. Between 1986 and 2009, the percentage of Americans who pay zero or negative federal income taxes has increased to 51% from 18.5%. And all this is accompanied by an increase in our national debt to 100% of GDP today from 42% in 1980. . . .

Anyone who seeks to provide serious political leadership today - those elected in 2010 or who seek national office in 2012 - owe Americans a plan to escape having to make this choice [between becoming an econmy like Sweden or one like Greece].  We need tectonic changes, not minor fiddling. 
Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI), budget plan is the kind of model necessary.  But structural change will only suceed if it's accompanied by a moral argument - an unabashed cultural defense of the free enterprise system that helps Americans remember why they love their country and its exceptional culture.
This is more than a political tussle between two parties over how the budget should be crafted to prevent a short-term problem.  It is a battle that cannot be put off any longer; the 'chickens have come home to roost', to put it in the words of Obama's favourite pastor.

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