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The major press outlets looked with dismay Friday as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan cast one of four Republicans to cast a vote against the Balanced Budget Amendment proposed by Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
And the press accounts almost ignored the concerns that Ryan and other conservatives had with the amendment’s failure to cap spending as a percentage of GDP. The proposed amendment could have created a situation where the courts, not Congress and the president, could have intervened to hike taxes.
Boehner and the GOP placed political expediency over principle. It is refreshing to see Mr. Ryan placing his principles first
Ryan released the following statement after the vote:
“I’m concerned that this version will lead to a much bigger government fueled by more taxes. Spending is the problem, yet this version of the Balanced Budget Amendment makes it more likely taxes will be raised, government will grow, and economic freedom will be diminished. Without a limit on government spending, I cannot support this Amendment.”
The budget chairman is to be commended for putting principle over politics, especially for someone of his stature.
Conservative groups such as Americans for Tax Reform and Let Freedom Ring had been pushing hard to keep the weak balanced-budget amendment from coming to the floor.
ATR put out the following statement before the vote:
Washington must learn to live within its means. A Balanced Budget Amendment should keep the focus on Washington’s overspending problem. Passing a BBA that allows a tax hike by a simple majority, however, will allow lawmakers to balance their budgets on the backs of taxpayers, rather than forcing Congress to rein in spending.
Washington has an overspending problem, not an under-taxing problem. Historically, outlays have averaged about 21 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while revenues have amounted to about 18 percent of GDP. Due to the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats’ spending binge, outlays now average almost 25 percent of GDP, and are projected to stay around 23 percent in perpetuity.
Unless tax hikes are taken off the table, reckless lawmakers will increase taxes to pay for these new bloated spending levels, instead of bringing spending in line with revenues.
Any lawmaker concerned about restoring American solvency cannot seriously vote for a BBA that does not include a super-majority requirement for tax increases. To pass a BBA that allows a tax hike by simple majority is to distract from the real problem of government spending, and leave taxpayers to bear the burden of foolhardy federal budgeting.
After the vote, I received comments from a conservative Hill office explaining the problems with the amendment with the following warning:
"For the last 60 years, our country has taken 20 cents out of every single dollar made in America to pay for the federal government. When Liza’s my age, we will be scheduled to take about 42 cents out of every single dollar made in America just to pay for the current government at that time.
I asked the Congressional Budget Office what will the tax rates be on my children’s generation, you know when I’ve got grandkids running around. They ran all their numbers through their computers and gave me their answer. The lowest tax bracket, the 10 percent bracket, goes to 25 percent, middle income taxpayers get a tax rate of 63 percent, and the top tax rate, which is what 80 percent of all those businesses, those subchapter S corporations, those partnerships, that goes to 88 percent. Then the CBO said, this could have some negative effects on the economy at that time. So, even these bean counters in government have got this figured out.
We all know where we’re going. We all know that the growth of our government is on an incredible upward trajectory, which is driven almost totally because of entitlement programs, programs that are going bankrupt and in urgent need of reforming. ...
We’re going from 40 million retirees in America to 80 million retirees. These are what we call pay as you go programs. Current workers pay their taxes for current beneficiaries. We’ve got a 100 percent increase in our retirement population, but only a 17 percent increase in the working population following them. 10,000 people are retiring every single day today in America, and so we know that our government is on this enormous trajectory of growth. If we allow that growth to continue unchecked, if we don’t reform the spending programs that are driving that growth, and we have just a balanced budget then we will crank taxes up in this country to the likes we’ve never seen before, and we will not have that economic liberty, that kind of freedom and prosperity we’ve had that defined this country, which have made our country the most prosperous nation in the world.
So a balanced budget amendment that simply says: have expenditures equal revenues. At worst we’ll split the difference, and we’ll go from taking 20 cents out of every dollar made in America, 20 percent of GDP, to 30 percent instead of 40 percent. Either way you go, you’re looking at European levels of size of government. We don’t want to get down that path.
To me, the root cause of this problem is spending. It is not a revenue problem that we have in Washington; it’s a spending problem that we have."