Daniel J. Mitchell: Explaining Ryan’s Budget in the Wall Street Journal

The era of bipartisan big government may have come to an end. Largely thanks to Rep. and the fiscal blueprint he prepared as chairman of the House Budget Committee earlier this year, the GOP has begun climbing back on the wagon of fiscal sobriety and has shown at least some willingness to restrain the growth of government.

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

speaking at in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Some willingness?” This frankly is about the best anyone can say about Ryan’s plan, the Path to Prosperity. My biggest problem is that nowhere does anyone, including Mitchell (who calls himself, unabashedly, “a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy at the Cato Institute”), refer, at least once, to the limitations on government. It’s as if that is now an irrelevant consideration, not even worth talking about.

Put another way, without Constitutional restraints, we’re left foundering in the sea, trying to make do the best we can with what we have: no fixed stars, no guidance, no direction, no signposts. Just bumbling along the best we can.

Here’s what I mean:

The most important headline about the Ryan budget is that it limits the growth rate of federal , with outlays increasing by an average of 3.1% annually over the next 10 years. …limiting so it grows by 3.1% per year, as Mr. Ryan proposes, quickly leads to less red ink. This is because federal tax revenues are projected by the House Budget Committee to increase 6.6% annually over the next 10 years if the House budget is approved (and this assumes the are made permanent).

Ah, that’s the goal: less red ink. Slow down the bus a little bit. But what’s the goal, the end point? How will we know we’ve succeeded? Is actual shrinkage of government even mentioned? Of course not. Mitchell seems to think that the purpose of the is to generate revenues for the government!

Even Mitchell admits it:

No, it doesn’t bring the back down to 3 percent of GDP, so it’s not Nirvana.

But we manage to stay out of fiscal hell, so that counts for something.

But not much.

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