It has been over three years (1,111 days to be precise) since the U.S. Senate last passed a budget. The last time Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) fulfilled his legal responsibility, Conan was still on NBC, Tea Parties hadn’t come together and the iPad hadn’t yet been introduced. This is one of the biggest abdications of power we have seen on the part of our government in modern time. And there is no excuse. The Senate needs only 51 votes to pass a budget. Democrats have had well over that for President Obama’s entire term, yet they refuse to even offer a plan.
Let’s be clear. The Senate must pass a budget if we are going to halt Washington’s disastrous habit of overspending, overborrowing and overtaxing our fragile economy. While liberals sit on the sidelines saying ‘no,’ conservatives are offering solutions.
Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) and others have courageously put credible and thoughtful plans on the table. But today, I am happy to report that a member of the Senate has put forward an unprecedented new plan that directly confronts all of the major economic challenges our nation faces.
Recognizing that our nation has come to the point where we either change course or risk falling into permanent decline, Senator Lee’s “Saving the American Dream” budget resolution puts forth a framework for strengthening the core principles that make this country exceptional, namely:
- Limiting the size and scope of the federal government
- Reforming our entitlement programs so that they ensure real economic protection instead of unrealistic promises no government can sustain
- Simplifying our complex federal tax code so Americans have greater opportunities to create lasting economic prosperity.
Lee’s plan is a strong blueprint for restraining and ultimately reducing our nation’s massive debt, cutting Washington’s out-of-control spending and above all restoring our nation’s economic prosperity. This is the only way that we can make sure future generations are not saddled with debt that keeps them from having the same opportunity of achieving the American Dream.
The reaction from those who want to continue the status quo against all evidence that we can’t is predictable. They will demagogue Senator Lee and other conservatives of wanting to throw grandma over the cliff. How blind, and how irresponsible. If we fail to act then spending under programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will balloon unchecked and eventually the nation will effectively go bankrupt. The truth is that the president’s health reform law magnified the financial problem while already ending Medicare as we know it.
Instead of making promises Congress has no chance of keeping even with massive tax hikes, Social Security and Medicare should provide seniors with a reasonable, affordable and predicable benefit that protects seniors from the threat of living in poverty.
Under the Lee budget, Social Security is converted into a true insurance that supplements income for retirees who need it. For the more affluent, benefits will be quickly restored in cases of sudden reversals.
By completing the transition begun years ago to a premium-support program, Medicare would assist seniors in buying the affordable health coverage they want and need from a marketplace that would have been freed to be more competitive. Similar approaches in Medicare Part D and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (the plan Congress enjoys) have resulted in lower health care costs and higher value in the delivery of care.
You may have heard the false allegation that conservatives don’t have a plan to solve our health care problems once Obamacare is ultimately repealed. This plan provides the answer.
This budget finally addresses one of the biggest problems with the healthcare industry–ever rising costs. Senator Lee proposes changing the outdated tax treatment of health insurance so that every American receives a tax credit (equal to what they get today in the workplace) to buy and own health coverage that meets individual needs.
This can be done without mandates from the federal government that intrude upon the moral, religious and philosophical sensibilities of the American public. At the same time, the Lee budget resolution redesigns the entire federal tax code into an expenditure tax that has a single flat rate. That’s right, a single, simple and fair tax system.
The plan encourages more savings, benefiting every American who dreams of going to college, buying a house or starting a business. Greater savings and a less punitive business tax also means more resources to invest and more opportunities to invest in our economy, and that means more jobs for Americans who are out of work and better wages for those who have jobs.
Finally, like Heritage’s fiscal plan, Lee’s budget reevaluates what the federal government can do with taxpayer money and time. By substantially reducing the size and scope of the federal government, Lee’s plan rightfully moves government towards its core responsibilities that fit within the Constitution and original intent of our Founding Fathers.
It is encouraging to see lawmakers taking a serious look at the crucial steps that are necessary to get our nation on a path of fiscal, political and constitutional responsibility. But there is more to do, and we hope you’ll join us in our efforts to make sure that “Saving the American Dream” becomes a reality.
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President, The Heritage Foundation