Ryan vs. Obama in the Battle of the Budget 

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin takes center stage today in the gathering national debate over the federal government’s future spending with the unveiling of his panel’s proposed 2012 budget. The Ryan proposal was developed in concert with House Republican leaders and is the main alternative to the budget plan President Barack Obama submitted in February. The contrasts between these two leaders’ priorities in recent weeks, such as the differences between their budget plans and their visions of America’s future, could not be more stark.

Obama for the past month has been absorbed in everything but the budget, even though federal spending and the national debt exploded during the first two years of his administration. The federal deficit is approximately $1.3 trillion for 2011 and the national debt will reach $14.3 trillion sometime this month. As a result, interest payments on that $14.3 trillion have soared from $187 billion in 2009 to more than $844 billion this year, according to the administration’s own figures. Even Tim Geithner, Obama’s Treasury secretary, has conceded in testimony before the Senate that the debt burden “is unsustainable.”

So what has Obama been working on for the past 30 days? He officially announced his 2012 re-election campaign Monday, after two weeks of nonstop attention on Libya. Before that, he was focused on delaying or stopping development of America’s rich new oil and natural-gas resources even as American consumers began paying upward of $4 per gallon for fuel. In other words, Obama has devoted himself to everything but solving the problem Americans worry about most: excessive federal spending that is suffocating economic growth and job creation.

Then there is Ryan, who will present his proposal this morning at a Capitol Hill news conference. Ryan promised on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace that his proposal won’t raise taxes because “the problem with our deficit is not because Americans are taxed too little. The problem with the deficit is because Washington spends too much money. We have got to stop spending money we don’t have. So we’re not going to go down the path of raising taxes on people and raising taxes on the economy. We want to go after the source of the problem, and that is spending.”

Ryan further promised spending cuts that will total more than $4 trillion over the next decade. First, he would cap discretionary federal spending at about its historic level, which for the past 50 years has been between 18 and 20 percent of gross domestic product. The Obama budget, by contrast, locks in federal spending at between 23 and 25 percent.

And second, Ryan promises entitlement reforms that protect present and coming beneficiaries aged 55 or older, while putting “our debt on a downward trajectory and gets us to a point of giving our next generation a debt-free nation. That in and of itself will help us grow the economy today and create jobs.”

Ryan admits his plan carries political risks and demagogues will be quick to pounce. But clear-eyed people will see it for what it is: A road map to restore America’s economic prosperity and security.

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