Donatelli: Ryan and Walker Lead the Way

Wisconsin pols take point in bid to save national and state economies

Leadership is a word much used but in short supply in the political world today. Politicians forever talk about it but seldom seek to solve big problems by advocating real solutions and then working to find a consensus that can move the country forward. Fortunately, there are at least two public officials who hail from Wisconsin, the Badger State, one in Washington and one in Madison, who are working diligently to turn America away from the fiscal cliff toward which we are headed.

Recently, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan submitted his blueprint to restore fiscal sanity to the federal government. His 2013 budget foresees an end to trillion-dollar yearly deficits and gradually brings federal expenditures in line with tax receipts at a sustainable level. Rather than ruinous and self-defeating tax increases that will slow the economy, Mr. Ryan’s budget envisions tax reform that lowers rates and eliminates many tax preferences, moves that many economists argue will enhance economic growth and increase federal tax receipts in the out years.

Most important, Mr. Ryan’s budget tackles a program that is growing at an unsustainable pace and driving our annual deficits to ever-higher levels. Medicare was established in 1965 when Lyndon Johnson was president, the Beatles ruled the music charts and the counterculture was coming of age. Much has changed in the nearly 50 years since, but Medicare is still basically the same fee-for-service program. However, it has exploded in recent years as more Americans have reached age 65 and new treatment techniques have been developed. The federal response has been to impose price controls on payments to doctors and hospitals, a solution that threatens to affect treatment quality and access to providers. The program must be reformed if we are to keep our promises to the senior generations to come.