A Further Perspective

A Spine Transplant for the GOP

Sarah Palin embraces Paul Ryan's Roadmap.

By 12.13.10

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Governor Sarah Palin just hit a home run with her cogent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal endorsing Congressman Paul Ryan's (R-WI) Roadmap for America's Future, a tax-cutting, budget-balancing, entitlement-reforming proposal which House Republicans still refrain from embracing wholeheartedly.

In putting her political capital behind the Ryan plan, she may be giving a needed spine transplant to the Republican Party and saving it in spite of itself.

Governor Palin nicely highlights the relative merits of the Ryan plan over the recent recommendations of the president's Nation Commission on Fiscal Responsibility which, while certainly calling for some necessary and painful cost-cutting proposals, "makes only a limited effort to cut spending below the current trend set by the Obama administration."

Lest we forget, the National Commission is also proposing an additional trillion dollars of new taxes, something that is antithetical to everything the voters told us in the recent election and anathema to most Republicans.

So, if Republicans don't want to raise taxes, they presumably want to cut discretionary spending and, even more importantly, reform runaway entitlement spending which is about ready to deluge the nation in red ink with the aging and retirement of the Baby Boomer generation now underway. Why then are the House and Senate Republicans seemingly without any comprehensive, programmatic alternatives to the presidential Commission's recommendations? After all, it takes a horse to beat a horse.

What is the GOP's Big Idea? I am all for cutting earmarks, but they are drops in the big bucket of federal spending. I am all for reducing marginal and corporate tax rates; but this game of chicken in which Republicans join Democrats in spending on new entitlements, two wars, increased discretionary spending, and bailouts, well, for everyone, is going to turn out badly for limited government and taxpayers absent a major overhaul of the way the federal government does business. Something, as they say, has gotta give, as the Greeks and Irish are finding out.

Which brings us back to Paul Ryan's Roadmap. No sitting Republican in the House or Senate, no GOP governor, and no policy wonk in any conservative think tank has produced anything as comprehensive as Ryan's magnum opus which deals with health care, taxes, entitlements, and economic growth all in one audacious proposal.

This last point, i.e., the need to energize economic growth, not simply stop the economic bleeding and outrageous spending, was not lost on the former Alaskan governor. Ryan's proposal "does more than just fend off disaster," says Palin. "CBO [Congressional Budget Office] calculations show that the Roadmap would also help create a 'much more favorable macroeconomic outlook' for the next half-century."

"The CBO estimates that under the Roadmap, by 2058 per-person GDP would be around 70% higher than the current trend," says Governor Palin. This is so because the plan replaces the U.S.'s high and anticompetitive corporate income tax, maybe the highest in the developed world, with a business consumption tax of just 8.5%.

"The overall tax burden would be limited to 19% of GDP (compared to 21% under the deficit commission's proposals)," notes Palin.

Notwithstanding the Roadmap's comprehensive approach to cutting the Gordian Knot of high spending, spiraling health care, entitlement costs and an inefficient tax structure, only a dozen or so Republicans have signed up to co-sponsor Ryan's legislative package. The party of Lincoln has gone AWOL on the only credible proposal for fiscal reform consistent with Republican principles.

The GOP's no-show on the Ryan plan would be understandable if there were several other viable alternatives floating around out there in the political ether. There are none.

At some point, the Republican congressional leadership is going to have to… well… lead. In this case, leadership begins by educating the American people to the dimensions of the crisis they face, something Governor Palin actually gives the President's commission credit for doing; but it cannot stop there. It is well past time for them to embrace a concrete proposal that takes on the tough issues, head-on, and prepare the electorate for the momentous issues that must be faced now and in 2012.

The only game in town is Paul Ryan's Roadmap around which Governor Palin is rallying the troops, be they independents, Tea Partiers or GOP mainstreamers. This may be her greatest contribution to the Republican Party and the nation in its time of need.

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About the Author

G. Tracy Mehan III served at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the administrations of both Presidents Bush. He is a consultant in Arlington, Virginia, and an adjunct professor at George Mason University School of Law.