There is a struggle now being waged in Washington, the outcome of which will determine whether the nation's economy will grow or continue to falter.
The main combatants are President Barack Obama and a thoughtful member of Congress from the nation's heartland, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
One of them, the president, represents the theory that government needs to regulate every facet of the economy. The other, Rep. Ryan, champions the economic freedom that has made the United States the wealthiest and most free nation on the face of the earth.
Ryan, who chairs the powerful House Budget Committee, has outlined a program he calls a "Roadmap for America's Future." It leads to economic freedom, warning that "Washington's leaders have taken an already unsustainable budget outlook and made it far worse" by exploiting "Americans' genuine economic anxieties to justify an unrelenting and wide-ranging expansion of government."
Their agenda, he warns, "has included, among other things, a failed, debt-financed economic 'stimulus'; an attempt to control the Nation's energy sector; increasing domination of housing and financial markets; the use of taxpayer dollars to seize part ownership of two nearly bankrupt auto makers; and, of course, the planned takeover of Americans' healthcare, already heavily burdened, manipulated, and distorted by government spending and regulation.
This domineering government brings taxes, rules, and mandates; generates excessive levels of spending, deficits, and debt; leads to economic stagnation and declining standards of living; and fosters a culture in which self-reliance is a vice and dependency a virtue — and as a result, the entire country weakens from within."
For his part, President Obama sees government regulation of almost all facets of the economy as a vital tool, appointing so-called "czars" to oversee large segments of the supposedly free U.S. economy.
This struggle will determine whether our economy, once a beacon of freedom, will continue to be mismanaged by unelected bureaucrats.
As this is written, the economy is in a tailspin. Echoing Ryan, respected fiscal monitor Standard & Poor's warned: "The continued failure to come up with a credible medium-term fiscal reform program would increase borrowing costs for all segments of U.S. society, thereby undermining investment, employment, and growth. It would also curtail foreigners' appetite to add to their already substantial holdings of U.S. assets. And it would weaken the dollar."
Ryan's website describes key points of the roadmap:
Medical Care: "It provides universal access to affordable health coverage, not by expanding government, but by reinforcing the role of consumers — patients — in a truly competitive marketplace. In conjunction with this, the plan takes on the necessary task of restructuring the government's medical entitlements, making them sustainable for the long term."
. Social Security: "It saves and strengthens Social Security, making the program sustainable for the long run, and helping expand investments needed for economic growth."
. Taxes: "It offers an alternative to today's needlessly complex and inefficient tax code, providing the option of a simplified mechanism that better promotes and rewards work, saving, and investment."
. Jobs: "It helps the nation's workforce prepare for success in the global economy by transforming 49 job training programs, scattered across eight agencies, into a flexible, dynamic program focused on results, and accompanied by clear measures of transparency and accountability. The plan requires the development of performance measures, and gives each state the option to consolidate funding into one program, if such an approach can be shown to improve outcomes and achieve job training goals."
Clearly, Rep. Ryan's roadmap points the way to a robust economy free of government meddling, while Barack Obama's way guarantees a dreary economy managed by power-crazed Washington bureaucrats.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of "The New Reagan Revolution" (St. Martin's Press, 2011). He is the founder and chairman of The Reagan Group and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Visit his website at www.reagan.com, or e-mail comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com.
© Mike Reagan