GOP looking to wean public off government

Freedom New Mexico

I t isn’t likely to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, but the GOP’s proposed spending plan for next year and the next decade is one of the most encouraging signs out of Washington since the Reagan revolution.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., got everyone’s attention Tuesday when he unveiled a GOP proposal to reduce federal spending by $6.2 trillion less than the president proposes over the next decade, substantially pay down, rather than increase, the national debt and dramatically revamp social programs that consume 60 percent of the budget.

Ryan called it a “defining moment.” If adopted, it would be. But it’s more likely to define political debate through the 2012 election. We glad to see GOP leadership willing to reverse the alarming and unsustainable trend of trillion-dollar deficits and ever-growing federal budgets.

Ideally we would like more substantial reforms. Nevertheless, we’re encouraged. The proposal spans domestic spending, welfare reform, health and retirement, tax reforms and even would reduce some military spending by accepting Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ targeted Pentagon inefficiencies. Particularly intriguing is a proposal to recast health care, rescinding Obama’s signature health care program rushed through last year’s Democratic-controlled Congress.

In coming weeks, details are likely to change with negotiations. But we are pleased to hear Ryan describe the “plan for prosperity” and acknowledge it would advance the free market and a robust private sector “under a limited constitutional government of popular consent.”

Clearly the devil will be in the details. But particularly promising is a plan to reduce domestic spending to below the 2008 level and freeze it for five years, while shrinking the federal workforce by attrition. A new health care program for the poor would convert Medicaid to block grants, allowing states to innovate solutions, rather than Washington dictate. Perverse incentives would be removed to add people to food-stamp programs, and dozens of duplicative job-training programs consolidated.

Ryan promised to target corporate welfare and end the government’s conservatorship of the scandal-plagued Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage programs, and Congress’ Wall Street bailout authority. To promote free markets, “handouts” will be killed for uncompetitive energy sources, taking government’s thumb off the scales of innovation.

For people reaching age 65 in 2022, Medicare would be replaced by the government subsidizing private plans chosen by patients. People with lower income and greater health risks would receive larger subsidies.

Tax brackets would be consolidated, lowering rates. The highest individual and corporate rate would be 25 percent, compared to today’s 35 percent.

The Heritage Center for Data Analysis projects the Republican plan will help create nearly 1 million new private-sector jobs next year, cut unemployment to 4 percent by 2015 and result in 2.5 million additional private-sector jobs in the last year of the decade.

For decades Washington has trended to a welfare state with increasing numbers dependent on government.

The GOP plan offers a reasonable alternative. We will see now whether the American people have become wedded to government as the answer, or if they want free-market solutions and less government control.