Morning Bell: Senate Stands Still on Budget Crisis

Mike Brownfield /

Solving our nation’s fiscal crisis is not up for debate, and politicians should be past the point of using it as fodder for political gain. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at the latest from liberals in Congress who are digging in their heels and refusing to recognize the reality of America’s budgetary mess.

Yesterday, the Senate at long last voted on House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) FY 2012 “Path to Prosperity” budget, which had previously passed the House. It was defeated 57-40, with no Democrats voting for it. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) also had their budget alternatives defeated, with Toomey’s bill receiving 42 votes. Senate Democrats have yet to even offer an alternative, and, notably, President Barack Obama’s budget failed yesterday by 97-0, a unanimous rebuke of the President’s proposal. Ryan reflected on where Congress now stands:

[Republicans are] the ones who actually put the specifics on the table—$6.2 trillion in savings over the next ten years. We put a budget up — we passed a budget, brought it to the table. Where are we now? It’s been 754 days since the Senate Democrats proposed, let alone, passed a budget. They’re not offering any solutions, putting nothing on the table.

Instead of offering solutions, the left is resorting to smear tactics. The prime example this week surrounds a special congressional election in western New York, where Democrat Kathy Hochul defeated Republican Jane Corwin, who supported Ryan’s budget. Hochul attacked the plan, falsely claiming that it was an attempt to end Medicare.

Hochu’s attacks weren’t original works of inspired political rhetoric—they were, instead, just more of the same smear tactics against the Ryan plan, which have included a video of a Ryan look-alike pushing an old woman in a wheelchair over a cliff, claims by Rep. Steve Rothman (D–NJ) that the plan would impose “suffering, pain and terror” on “tens of millions of seniors,” an ironic accusation by Donald Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, that the plan would lead to “rationing,” and a warning to preschoolers issued by House Democrats in the Committee on Education and the Workforce that they could “lose health care if you or your family is low income or has a medical condition.”

But for all the noise the left is making, an important fact remains. Medicare is in trouble, and neither President Obama nor Democrats in Congress have offered a solution to do anything about it. The program faces a 75-year unfunded liability in excess of $30 trillion, even as it is plagued by serious gaps in coverage, an increasing number of demoralized doctors refusing to accept new Medicare patients, a sluggish and outdated system of inflexible governance, and tens of billions of dollars in annual losses to waste, fraud, and abuse.

Criticism of Ryan’s plan has focused on a proposal to provide premium support to Medicare enrollees, helping them to purchase a health care plan of their choice. As Heritage’s Robert Moffit and Kathryn Nix write, it’s modeled after the plan that federal workers and employees enjoy, and it would introduce intense competition in a consumer-driven market, which has historically slowed the growth of health care costs and increased patient satisfaction.

Ryan’s budget, like Heritage’s “Saving the American Dream” plan, seriously addresses America’s fiscal reality—a $14.3 trillion deficit with unfunded entitlement obligations as far as the eye can see. America stands at a crossroads. Standing still, voting present and lobbing partisan bombs in hopes of achieving short-term political gain won’t move the country in the right direction. Now is not the time to leave Medicare withering on the vine, either. Now is the time for solutions and much-needed reforms.

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