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Paul Ryan’s Budget: The Most Important Domestic Proposal of our Lifetimes

Now that Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, has presented the GOP’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2012, I’ve been waiting for David Limbaugh to admit that the document is so splendid–so precisely what we had all been hoping for in every regard–that we should put right out of our minds any thoughts of muddying matters by shutting down the government.  Brother David having apparently been detained, though, I thought I’d say a word.

Paul Ryan’s document is historic.  By cutting more than $4 trillion from the budget over the next decade, it exceeds the recommendations of the budget commission President Obama established (and then ignored).  For that matter, it exceeds the fondest hopes of nearly everyone I know, including the most ardent members of the Tea Party.  The budget cuts discretionary spending, as it must.  But it takes on–forthrightly, unapologetically, and systematically–the major entitlement programs, especially Medicaid.  

In a word, this budget represents the first concerted, credible effort to shrink the federal government since the birth of the welfare state seven decades ago.  But not only that.  The document–and this is a critical matter, both as to policy and to the politics of the day–doesn’t merely shrink and slash.  It isn’t merely concerned with balancing the books.  It promotes growth. 

Here’s the way Ryan described the budget this past weekend on Fox News Sunday:

By cutting spending, reforming entitlements and growing our economy. Look, we intendryan-flag.jpg to not only cut discretionary spending and put caps on spending, you have to address the drivers of our debt. …

Now the good thing we have going for us is we have time to fix this problem. So the kinds of reform we’re going to be putting out there won’t make changes to people who are already in or near retirement. If you’re 55 or older, you won’t see changes. You won’t have to reorient your lives around these things.

But if we keep kicking the can down the road and keep making more empty promises to people, then we’ll have the European kind of pain and austerity. Then you have cuts to current seniors, tax increases that slow down your economy.

 By addressing the drivers of the debt now, we do it in a gradual way. … And we are going to put out a plan that gets our debt on downward trajectory and gets us to a point of giving our next generation a debt-free nation. That in and of itself will help us grow the economy today and create jobs.

The GOP budget represents the most consequential domestic policy proposal in our lifetimes. Republicans, the Tea Party, conservatives, libertarians–we should drop all other fights.  This is where to make our stand.