Democrats "blowing smoke" on the budget, says Paul Ryan
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., accused Democrats of "blowing smoke" on the budget during a speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, touting his own fiscal roadmap as a cure for what ails Washington's balance sheet.
Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and the 2012 Republican nominee for vice president, did nothing to encourage speculation that he will mount a bid for the presidency in 2016, confining his remarks largely to the fiscal fracas that consumes much of his day job.
"This has been a really big week," Ryan noted. "We got white smoke from the Vatican, and we got a budget from the Senate."
"But when you read it," he said, "you find the Vatican's not the only place blowing smoke this week."
"They call their budget a balanced approach," he said, but "the thing is, they never balance the budget, ever."
That unfortunate truth, Ryan said, makes one thing very clear: "They are the party of shared hardship, we are the party of equal opportunity."
"I am proud of our budget because it's changed the conversation," he added, and that much is assuredly true. Friends and foes alike have elevated Ryan's budget, with Republicans calling it a profile in courage and Democrats lambasting it as a body-blow to the social safety net.
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"Our budget expands opportunity by growing the economy," Ryan said. "It strengthens the safety net by retooling government...we balance the budget in 10 years without raising taxes."
Ryan did not address the most controversial element of his plan - a proposal to replace the guaranteed benefits of Medicare with a private insurance subsidy for people 55 years old and younger. Instead, he spoke at length about the budget as an expression of morality - a blueprint for governing priorities in an age of scarcity.
"The crucial question isn't how we balance the budget," said Ryan, "it's why we balance the budget."
Aligning revenues with expenditures is not just "an accounting exercise," he said. "We are trying to improve peoples' lives...We don't see the debt as an excuse to cut with abandon, to shirk our obligations. We see it as an opportunity to reform government, to make it leaner and more effective."
"Our debt is a threat to this country," he explained. "We are on the verge of a debt crisis. Our obligations are growing faster than our ability to pay for them."
And with its fiscal imprudence, Ryan said, "the government is sending us a message: It is saying, if you plan ahead, if you make sacrifices for your kids, if you save, you're a sucker."
The government is "brazenly stealing from our children," Ryan said, "and it has to stop."
Ryan also took aim at the seemingly endless series of fiscal deadlines and dramatic last-minute negotiations that have supplanted the regular budgetary process in Washington. "When politicians budget by crisis, what happens? They make deals in the dead of night, far from the public view...and government grows," he said. "Our budget offers an end to the brinksmanship. It restores regular order."
"The other side can join us in this common sense goal, or they can choose the status quo," he added. "But they must choose."
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