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A budget for the 21st century

This week the House of Representatives will take the first real step in addressing our looming fiscal crisis by bringing “ The Path to Prosperity ,” a budget resolution for next year and beyond, to the House floor. This budget offers a clear contrast to the president’s speech on Wednesday .

It offers a contrast in credibility. Unlike the president’s speech, which was rhetorically heated but substantively hollow, our budget contains specific solutions for confronting the debt and averting the most predictable crisis in our nation’s history. It also offers a contrast in visions. Unlike the speech, our budget advances a vision of America in which government both keeps its promises to seniors and lives within its means.

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Two months ago, President Obama submitted a budget for fiscal 2012 that did not deal with the major sources of government spending while calling for much higher taxes on American businesses and families. This budget was widely panned as lacking seriousness.

Now comes a deficit speech that doesn’t even rise to the level of a plan. Missing was a credible way to curb out-of-control spending. Instead, the president called for greater reliance on government price controls, which would strictly limit the health-care options of current seniors while failing to control costs. The president would couple this approach with $1 trillion in tax increases, which would destroy jobs and hurt the economy.

We cannot accept an approach that starts from the premise that ever-higher levels of spending and taxes represent America’s new normal. We have an obligation to fulfill the mission of health and retirement security for current retirees and future generations. We have a historic commitment to limited government and free enterprise. And we have a duty to leave the next generation with a more prosperous nation than the one we inherited.

The House Republican budget keeps America’s promises to seniors and those near retirement by making no changes to their current arrangements. It keeps America’s promises of health and retirement security for future generations by saving and strengthening our most important programs. And it keeps a promise that is implicit in our form of government: that a government instituted to secure our rights must be a limited government.

That is why “The Path to Prosperity” prevents spending and taxes from rising steadily to unprecedented levels, as they are currently projected to do. Doing otherwise would leave our children a nation that is less prosperous, less free and much deeper in debt.

If you are someone who agrees with the president that we cannot avoid this outcome without resorting to large tax increases, know this: No amount of taxes can keep pace with the amount of money government is projected to spend on health care in the coming years. Medicare and Medicaid are growing twice as fast as the economy — and taxes cannot rise that fast without a devastating impact on jobs and growth.

If you believe that spending on these programs can be controlled by restricting what doctors and hospitals are paid, know this: Medicare is on track to pay doctors less than Medicaid pays, and Medicaid already pays so little that many doctors refuse to see Medicaid patients. These arbitrary cuts not only fail to control costs, they also leave our most vulnerable citizens with fewer health-care choices and reduced access to care.

And if you believe that we must eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in these programs, know this: Eliminating inefficient spending is critical, but the only way to do so is to reward providers who deliver high-quality, low-cost health care, while punishing those who don’t. Time and again, the federal government has proved incapable of doing that.

Medicare is projected to go bankrupt in just nine years unless we act to curb the relentlessly rising cost of health care. This cannot be done with across-the-board cuts in Washington. It has to be done by giving seniors the tools to fight back against skyrocketing costs. That’s why our budget saves Medicare by using competition to weed out inefficient providers, improve the quality of health care for seniors and drive costs down.

The president’s proposals are aimed more at empowering government than strengthening the free market. He continues to prove he’s not up to the challenging work of reforming government to meet 21st-century needs. If he gets his way, the nation will endure huge tax hikes, seniors’ access to health care will be reduced — and we will experience an epic collapse of our health and retirement programs that would devastate our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.

House Republicans are fighting to prevent this. Our budget offers a compassionate and optimistic contrast to a future of health-care rationing and unbearably high taxes. We lift the crushing burden of debt, repair the safety net, make America’s tax system fair and competitive, and ensure that our health and retirement programs have a strong and lasting future. These issues are too important to leave to the politics of the past. If President Obama won’t lead, we will.

The writer, a Republican from Wisconsin, is chairman of the House Budget Committee.

 
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