It has been more than 1,400 days since Senate Democrats passed a budget. President Obama has failed to produce his annual budget as required by law this February, his fourth late budget out of five submitted. And he has announced that he has no plans to produce his budget for at least another month.
This cavalier attitude toward budgeting is the main reason the federal government is constantly lurching from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan wants to change all that. "This is an invitation to the president and to Senate Democrats," Ryan said at a press conference unveiling the House Republican fiscal year 2014 budget on Tuesday. "We want to revive this budget process so we can show we can actually get something done. We believe we owe the American people a balanced budget, and for the third straight year, we've delivered."
Not only does the new Ryan budget, formally titled "The Path to Prosperity," balance federal spending and taxes, it reaches that milestone in just 10 years. And it does so without raising (or cutting) a dime in taxes.
Under current law, federal government outlays are set to rise from $3.61 trillion this year to $5.77 trillion in 2023, for a cumulative 10-year total of $46.1 trillion in federal spending. Under Ryan's new budget, federal spending would reach just $4.95 trillion in 2023, for a 10-year total of $41.46 trillion. That's $4.64 trillion in deficit savings, which is a good start.
The Ryan budget achieves these savings by repealing Obamacare ($1.8 trillion), reforming Medicaid ($756 billion) and cutting other mandatory spending programs like unemployment benefits ($962 billion). And because it cuts the deficit so fast, the Ryan budget also creates $700 billion in savings on the interest payments on existing debt.
Despite these savings, the Ryan budget preserves a robust social safety net. Medicaid spending, for example, would still grow by 20 percent under the Ryan plan. States would be given more flexibility to tailor their food stamp, welfare and health care programs. And the tax code would be simplified, making it easier for businesses to create new jobs.
The Ryan budget is a political document, and, as such, it is not perfect. It does not touch Social Security, even though the program is adding billions to the deficit each year. It does not detail how the tax code will be reformed or what will replace Obamacare. Instead, it leaves those decisions up to future committees.
But the Ryan budget is an opening bid toward further budget negotiations -- negotiations that traditionally have been led by the president. Never before in the history of the modern budget process have both chambers of Congress introduced and passed budgets before the White House has even bothered to submit one. That is what we are on track for this year.
The House Budget Committee will mark up the Ryan budget on Wednesday, and the full House will vote on it next week. Senate Democrats are scheduled to release their own budget this week and to vote on it sometime this month. At no point is anyone expecting a written plan for Obama. That is the very definition of a failure to lead.