'Path to Prosperity' A Long Road; Budget is First Step

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner votes for 2012 budget that dramatically curtails spending.

This opinion column is written by U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls).

It was April 15, 1912 when the “unsinkable” Titanic sank.  As it stands, our growing debt and deficit continue to make our own nation more vulnerable to sinking.  In an effort to better prevent our own Titanic, Friday afternoon, I was proud to vote in favor of Congressman Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity budget proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2012.  His plan takes the bold and necessary steps to shift our government’s spending priorities.     

For the first time in a long time, Congress is now deciding what spending to cut, not whether to cut spending.  This is a huge and important step in getting our debt and deficit under control, and I’m proud that House Republicans are leading the way. 

Last year, Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats failed to draft a budget for a vote, which caused a near government shutdown recently.  With Republicans now in control of the House, a budget was finally passed that funds the government through September, the end of the 2011 fiscal year.  The budget cuts spending by $39.877 billion compared to the prior year.  It is also $78.5 billion less than what the President requested to spend in FY 2011, and cuts an additional $315 billion out of the budget over the next decade.

These are historic cuts and they are a good start, but we didn’t enter into this fiscal crisis overnight.  This is a problem that has grown over time, so we can’t expect to escape from our fiscal crisis overnight.  Billions of dollars in cuts simply won’t do.

We need more, and that’s why in Congressman Ryan’s FY 2012 budget we move from cutting government spending by BILLIONS of dollars to cutting $6.2 TRILLION.  Sadly, this still won’t solve the entire problem, but it’s a large, bold step towards finally stopping the government from spending money it simply doesn’t have. 

With the vote in favor of Congressman Ryan’s plan, we started an honest debate about getting our spending under control and taking real steps to make that happen by cutting trillions of dollars, reforming the tax code and welfare system, and eliminating wasteful spending.  At the same time, the budget preserves and strengthens the health and retirement programs for those who are currently 55 and older and future retirees.

Our deficit doesn’t exist because American’s are taxed too little; we have a deficit because Washington spends too much, and I commend Congressman Ryan for having the courage to lead on this issue and his work to keep America sailing smoothly.

Aldo Raine April 19, 2011 at 12:39 PM
For one thing -- good for all of us -- is pushing for medical cost control. Everybody from drug companies on down have their hand out for inflated salaries and other chunks of medical costs. Of course health care reform is designed to cut costs, but the right wing crazies want to eliminate it because it "punishes" their friends in the health care industry. You call Ryan's plan a solution? Just because somebody comes up with nonsense that fits in with their ideological fantasies, don't insult our intelligence by calling it a "plan." Of course I'd like have GE and other multinationals pay taxes. Spare the nonsense this is because of Obama. Virtually every Republican't is lined up to help these corporations avoid their responsibility to society. So I think we could agree on that one. After all, if the corporatists on the Supreme Court want to treat corporations like citizens, make them pay taxes like citizens. But the idea that Ryan is trying to solve this is a cruel joke. Like all Republican'ts, he is ginning up a crisis and swooping in with a solutions that is in reality recycled conservative crap. So you want to see your taxes go up while the taxes of the rich are cut by 33%. So you want the desperately poor pushed deeper into poverty while gutting the police forces needed to keep what will become a growing crime problem? In short, Ryan is a pretty boy with a pretty ugly plan. Don't be a fool and fall for it. There are many other ways to solve real problems.
Aldo Raine April 19, 2011 at 12:41 PM
This is not a serious plan and I'm glad that Obama called Ryan out about it right to his face. And of course pretty boy had to whine and cry about it the next day. And you know what. Before the Obama speech 68% of Americans thought the Ryan Path to Hell was a good idea, not only 38% of the country is fooled. Ryan voted for two unfunded wars, one unfunded upper income tax cut and a give away to the drug companies. Anyone with any brains would realize that pretty boy has zero credibility on this issue. He is a fraud and phony and should be laughed out of the 1st.
Lyle Ruble April 19, 2011 at 03:25 PM
@tbs...To save Medicare it will require joining the rest of the developed world and go to a national health care system. The health care industry doesn't want to see this happen since they are making so much of our money. Drug companies should give up all pharmaceutical research and government sponsored research would create the drugs needed and finally break the back of drug companies lock on patented drugs. Building more medical schools will bring the number of doctors into balance with the needs of the population. Cut Military appropriations to 4% of GDP and immediately stop the currents wars.
Randy1949 April 19, 2011 at 04:10 PM
"So what's your plan Aldo to save Medicare?" Not vouchers for private insurance whose operating costs are much higher than the plan we have now, that's for sure. Other than that, Lyle beat me to it.
Jay Sykes April 19, 2011 at 04:32 PM
Lyle, the quickest and most efficient method to 'save' Medicare is to eliminate the cost of two pure lifestyle decisions, smoking and being overweight. Smokers, 20-25% of the population, cost 30% additional for their healthcare; Obese, with a BMI of 30+ and about 30% of the population, costs 36% additional. Add all this up, and the government magically reduces its Medicare costs in the 17% range on the day we initiate it.
235301 April 19, 2011 at 04:40 PM
Lyle's Comment: "Drug companies should give up all pharmaceutical research and government sponsored research would create the drugs needed and finally break the back of drug companies lock on patented drugs. " Your suggestion is nothing less than the pure old style Soviet model. That worked really, really well now didn't it? There are no greater forces for advancement of humankind than competition and greed. If the government takes over all drug research and the drug companies are eliminated we will set back medical advancement 100 years. Without competition there is no advancement. Governments have been shown time and time again that they make terrible bets when it comes to determining which technologies will win(re: Japan in the late 80s, also a picture of the future of China). I agree the drug companies don't behave in the most ethical way but we have today a pretty decent system. The FDA is there to put a cap on the unethical behavior and validate that drugs are effective and safe(yes, I know there have been failures, read Vioxx). And there has to be a profit motive for the drug companies...they can't go straight to generics right out of the box. It takes 100s of millions, sometimes billions in research $s for drug development. Why develop a drug if you can't make some money on it? Sorry to burst your Marxist bubble Lyle.
Aldo Raine April 19, 2011 at 06:13 PM
Bingo Jay -- good point! But one problem we have is that people with jobs in this country work too damned long. A lot of people have trouble finding time to exercise. Compared to other countries -- including the Japanese -- we work more hours and take fewer vacations. The other problem is that poor people have trouble getting food. Google up the phrase "urban food desert" and you'll see what I mean.
Aldo Raine April 19, 2011 at 06:20 PM
I've been at places like Abbott labs and was told that to see the people down the hallway. According to the person I was talking to, in all likelihood none of the people you see will have a successful drug launch in their entire career. Nevertheless, according to Fortune, pharmaceuticals is the third most profitable industry in the US. So they are finding a way to make money and are not teetering on the doorstep of the poorhouse. Medical devices, BTW, is fourth. There is a suggestion here that they are making these profits. You could argue that the first two industries are sucking up bucks, but bear in mind that medicine is 16% of our economy. We have to find a way to hit the breaks on this. One good idea is to significantly raise taxes so the temptation to take money out if companies is diminished. And BTW just a suggestion. The Marxist labels are not only inaccurate, but they diminish the force of your argument.
Randy1949 April 19, 2011 at 06:21 PM
I'm neither a smoker not overweight. All I'm looking for in Medicare is catastrophic medical coverage, because none of us has complete control over whether we get cancer or MS, and unless we're lucky enough to die in our sleep, most of us will have a final hospitalization. I really would have no problem with a focus on preventive medicine and a few gentle disincentives to overuse. Aldo is right -- everything in this country seems designed to keep us from exercising and eating right.
Kirk April 19, 2011 at 08:16 PM
Joe, as always your insight is greatly appreciated! Lyle your opinion as well...one question for both of you...Ryan's plan calls for medicare reform and the President has focused on tax increases...won't President Obama have to address cuts in medicare as well? I'm not saying I agree 100% with Ryan's budget (I agree with most defense spending should be there as well) but his plan seems detailed enough to be the starting point...I didn't see any details from the President's conference on Wednesday. Why aren't any of the politicians talking about social security? People are living longer, move the age to 73 or whatever makes sense.
Lyle Ruble April 19, 2011 at 08:31 PM
@Jay Sykes.... I can't agree with you more about lifestyle and health maintenance. The big four ar tobacco, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and alcohol consumption. The only problem in changing lifestyle is the amount of time it takes to implement and to be successful. If we wait for that to happen, no one will be able to afford health care. We have to have a structural change which includes a new approach to health maintenance. Which means throwing out the old system and implement a natural health care plan.
Lyle Ruble April 19, 2011 at 08:43 PM
@235301...Sorry, but I think you have been drinking too much of the "Pharmaceutical Kool Aid". I am not suggesting that the drug industry should be nationalized, but just like a number of industries, the government funds the pharmaceutical research. It would work much the same way as DOD funded research. the drug companies would retain their manufacturing and distribution systems, but get out of the expense research business that rarely pays off. Billions saved each year. You say that competition and greed provide the incentive for innovation, but when it comes to drugs it is greed only and no true competition. If we didn't have generics how high would prescription costs be? The FDA is currently a joke. It is underfunded, understaffed and subject to political will. ie: GWB's administration. Your definition of Marxism leaves a great deal to be desired. I didn't say the workers should own the drug companies.
Don Niederfrank April 19, 2011 at 08:51 PM
"There are no greater forces for advancement of humankind than competition and greed. " Well, no. The species has survived and thrived because of a strong sense of cooperation, altruism and an inherent sense of justice based on identification with the other. It is a myth that business people succeed by being ruthless, competitive and greedy. People in business succeed by being honest with their customers, suppliers, stockholders and stakeholders. Do some greedy people succeed? Yes, some do. Some students get away with cheating; some people are tricked out of their pocket change or life savings. Some drug dealers eat will and drive big cars. But at a very deep level we know these are exceptions to the norm. We do not teach our children to "win at all costs," nor do we tolerate competition and greed unmitigated by laws and social sanctions. Those laws and social sanctions are based on an awareness that we all share in the common good and all benefit to the greatest degree when our basest desires are curtailed. Are we motivated by greed and desire? Of course. And by fear as well. But not by these alone; and not by these primarily. An awareness to see beyond ourselves is what marks maturity in individuals and societies.
CowDung April 19, 2011 at 10:04 PM
I think there are a couple of ways to interpret what 'greedy' really is. Without profit motive or competition, people would not tend to take the risks that go along with innovation and advancement. This 'greed' really has nothing to do with being honest with customers and such', nor does it necessarily involve cheating people out of their life savings...
nancy peske April 19, 2011 at 10:13 PM
@CowDung, that's a very limited way of thinking. I know plenty of people who make gobs of money--including a wealthy high tech innovator---who were not motivated by profit. Ever hear the saying, "Do what you love and the money will follow?" It's too easy for people to blindly believe that money is the be all, end all. Where are you going to spend your money when the whole world's a desert?
Lyle Ruble April 19, 2011 at 10:24 PM
@nancy... Beach front!
tbs April 20, 2011 at 06:22 AM
Ryan's budget plan that passed the house did include $178 billion dollars in defense savings over the next five years (incorporating Gates proposal)...probably not as high as needed but it's as much as Obama has offered. In addition, Ryan has been talking about Social Security reform. His proposal is offering Americans the same options Members of Congress and Federal employees get. You can either stay in the traditional gov't run system, or enter a system of guaranteed personal accounts, neither is privatized as his opponents would like you to believe. I am just incensed that Obama took the low road and has decided for political purposes to say that "granny will die" if you make changes to Medicare. Medicare trustees project the program to go bankrupt in the next 7 years if nothing is done. Obama needs to start doing the courageous thing and put some reforms on the table. It seems Obama's only solution to our debt crisis is tax the rich. Why isn't he incorporating his Debt commission's proposal of getting more revenues into the gov't by simplifying the tax code and closing the loop holes, like Paul Ryan did? I am so sad we have a President that is more concerned with his reelection campaign than actually solving our country's serious debt crisis. THE WORST is that the White House is just ignoring the S & P warning of yesterday. It is not just sad, it's simply tragic.
Aldo Raine April 20, 2011 at 11:56 AM
Nice spin tbs and I knew it would be pushed this way. No, the reason we are going into debt is because taxes are not high enough, the same thing that got Greece in trouble. Even Greenspan said Sunday we need to return at least to Clinton era tax levels, which won't kill the upper class. I am not surprised at the S and P rating and wonder why it didn't happen sooner We are acting like a bunch of lowlifes who refuse to pay their bills. It doesn't matter if we stay with Medicare or go with Ryan's fantasy-based voucher program. Our health care system is so so dysfunctional neither the costs will rise regardless. First off, what the hell does private health insurance have to do with efficient health care delivery, and that's for starters. Putting it bluntly but accurately, the pretty boy with an ugly plan will kill grannie. First off, the idea that somebody with pre-existing conditions will be able to buy health insurance on the open market is insane. Second, you will be that this is designed to run short so the the pretty boy with the ugly plan rich friends won't have their money touched. What happens to grannie when the money runs out? Fix the health care system. That is the only thing that will save us.
CowDung April 20, 2011 at 01:39 PM
Nancy: If those people making 'gobs of money' really aren't motivated by profit, then why do they make 'gobs of money'? One would think that the 'wealthy high tech innovator' would have just given his/her innovations to the world to use for free... You are correct--money isn't the 'be all, end all'. I didn't intend to state that it was. Merely 'doing what one loves' doesn't necessarily result in innovation and risk taking though. Discovering new things and pushing the limits of our knowledge isn't inexpensive. Certainly there are exceptions to every rule, but very few people (no matter how much they would love to) are going to risk their life savings to develop some new and wonderful thing unless there's a good chance at getting a return on that investment.
Aldo Raine April 20, 2011 at 01:44 PM
Funny thing CowDung, one of the things that leads these people who love make "gobs of money" are with companies who do their damnedest to prevent these products from reaching the market. When aren't these companies going ape over the defunding of the US Patent Office?
Don Niederfrank April 20, 2011 at 02:04 PM
CD, Right. I was mostly responding to the phrase "no greater forces for the advancement of humankind." This kind of thinking sounds too close to Social Darwinism and a justification of unfettered capitalism for my comfort. Certainly good things come from selfish motivation.
Aldo Raine April 20, 2011 at 02:24 PM
BTW, just found out that Paul Ryan's hero Ayn Rand's influence was a serial killer http://ht.ly/4EcC7. Man, I always thought she was a sociopath but little did I know. As you may have heard, the pretty boy with the ugly plan makes his staff read Atlas Shrugged. If you want a reason why is going to hell, this gives you a clue.
Lyle Ruble April 20, 2011 at 04:17 PM
@CowDung.... Redefining greedy? You know rationalization is the secret to happiness. That results in no change.
Charlie C April 20, 2011 at 04:43 PM
Tax Cuts don't pay for the Roads, Services, FEMA, Education, Government - REVENUES DO!! We have a major revenue problem - no matter how much is cut!! The Tax Rate is at 50 year lows... And the revenues are shrinking as well... What part doesn't Sens Get? Oh I know - If Taxes are adjusted for the Top 2% then Sens "revenues" from Corporate Lobbyists and the Koch Brothers will decrease!! Ahhh... Now I get it... Hope the rest of the voters do!!
Charlie C April 20, 2011 at 04:47 PM
Jay, You wrote: "One party control, regardless of political affiliation, makes this act especially egregious." I must ask you - did you vote for Scotty Walker and his Band of Merry-men? Or do you only complain when the homogeneous Government is Democratic?
Jay Sykes April 20, 2011 at 09:11 PM
Charlie C, I made no reference to any of the content that should, or should not have, been included in the budget that the last Congress had an obligation to pass. They only have themselves to blame and they evaded their responsibly to come up with a 2011 fiscal budget; no obstructionism from the other party could have occurred, they had the necessary votes; the President dodged his duty to hold their feet to the fire and make them come up with one. If the term runs out without a budget being past in Wisconsin, I will most certainly make the same statement about the current Wisconsin governmental bodies. I did not vote for one party rule in the most recent election, nor one party rule that occurred because of the prior elections; with divided government everyone must compromise.
tbs April 21, 2011 at 10:09 PM
In all the budgets talks, Democrats fail to remind us that they have controlled Congress since January 2007, Obama was in that Congress with Pelosi and Reid that bypassed Bush and passed massive omnibus spending packages with continuing resolutions to keep the government running until Obama took office. If they want to complain about any deficits they inherited it would be from Democrats who have been on a spending spree for over 4 years...and they complain about Iraq not being paid for, well now Obama has led us into a third war without paying for it. So not only is our debt growing, but gas prices are going up and our dollar is being devalued. Obama/Democrats need to stop pointing fingers and start charting a more responsible course that reins in spending and pass a budget that actually encourages growth and jobs in our private sector.
Lyle Ruble April 21, 2011 at 10:36 PM
@tbs... they have not had exclusive control of the Congress since 2007. They controlled the Senate since 2007, but the house has changed hands twice since 2005. You have to be kidding that the Dems are responsible for the debt and deficit. I've heard of spinning, but this is beyond the pale. Who was the one who started two unfunded wars? Who reduced tax revenues by tax breaks for the highest income Americans? Obama has no control over the price of oil. The only thing that will bring jobs back is for the companies sitting on $1.6 trillion in cash to start buying capital equipment and hiring people.
tbs April 28, 2011 at 11:43 PM
@ Lyle of course the Democrats aren't entirely responsible for the exploding debt. But what have they done to curb it since they have taken office? They have been spending crazy because they think Keynesian economics works. Their version of stimulus spending on wasteful projects or bailing out states that have run up debt didn't produce the jobs Obama promised....Obama's failed stimulus spending policy added billions and billions of dollars of more waste and now when our Congress try to just get back to 2008 levels of spending the Dems say the seniors are going to starve and people thrown out on the streets. PLEASE!!!! Oh that's right Obama got us into a couple of more wars. AND the reason businesses are sitting on the sidelines is because Obama introduced the biggest entitlement program called Health Care. Small businesses are trying to wrap their arms around what that is going to cost them in addition to what new taxes they are going to be saddled with. How about those Dems in Massachussetts? Voting overwhelming to end collective bargaining. HMMMM, where are the union protesters? Why aren't the Dems in Massachussetts being called Hitler or being kicked out of office? What incredible hypocrisy.
Lyle Ruble April 29, 2011 at 12:03 AM
@tbs... Your memory is very convenient. Under whose administration did the economy go to hell in a hand basket? It was Alan Greenspan and his libertarian Rand economic theories that blew up beginning in 2007 and was in full crisis in 2008. Not all Keynesian Economics works and it is obvious that we can't spend our way out of this recession. I don't see how you think Obama got us into a couple more wars. We were already in two unfunded wars and Libya has just popped up. By the way, businesses are sitting on 1.5 trillion in cash. As a business man and the contacts I still have, business would love to have a single payer health plan and not hassle with it. I have to look into the full story about Mass. so I won't comment as yet.


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