House Budget Committee Markup of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for FY2014

Chairman Paul Ryan: Opening Remarks, As Prepared for Delivery

Welcome, everybody. I want to start by thanking the members of this committee. As you know, writing a budget is a tough job—because you have to make choices. But everybody pitched in this year. And I’m grateful for your help.

I’m especially grateful to ranking member Chris Van Hollen. This committee has a long tradition of bipartisan cooperation—which he and his staff have continued. I know we will have some spirited debates in the hours ahead. But we will hold those debates in a spirit of good will.

And we should—because we owe it to the country. After years of trillion-dollar deficits, we owe the American people a responsible, balanced budget. And for the third year in a row, we’ve delivered. This time, our plan balances the budget in just ten years—without raising taxes.

How do we do it? We stop spending money we don’t have. Historically, we’ve paid a little less than one-fifth of our income in taxes to the federal government each year. But the government has spent more. So we match spending with income. We spend no more than we take in each year—or about 19.1 percent of gross domestic product. As a result, we spend $4.6 trillion less over the next ten years. Every family must live within a budget. Washington should too.

It’s a reasonable goal. Just look at where we are—and where we’re going. Today, our national debt is bigger than our economy. Unless we change course, we will add another $9 trillion over the next ten years. That debt will weigh down our country like an anchor.

At some point, lenders will lose confidence in us. They will demand higher interest rates. When they do, interest rates across the country will skyrocket—on credit cards, on mortgages, and on car loans. As interest rates rise, debt payments will overwhelm all other items in the budget. And the debt will overwhelm the economy. Our finances will collapse. The safety net will unravel. And the most vulnerable will suffer.

A debt crisis would be the most predictable disaster in our history. We know what the problem is. By 2023, we will collect twice as much revenue as we did last year. But CBO says the deficit will be nearly $1 trillion. Clearly, spending is the problem.

And it’s more than an economic problem. By living beyond our means, we’re stealing from our children. It’s selfish. It’s unfair. It’s immoral. And it has to stop. So we not only balance the budget in ten years. By putting the right reforms in place, we also pay down the debt. The less we owe to foreign creditors, the more of our future we will control.

The truth is, our debt is a sign of overreach. It’s a sign government is doing too much. And when government does too much, it doesn’t do anything well. So it’s only common sense to balance the budget, because it returns government to its proper limits and focus.

By balancing the budget in ten years, we will promote a healthier economy and help create jobs. CBO says legislation that reduced the deficit as much as our budget would increase gross national product by 1.7 percent in 2023. In fact, economists John Cogan and John Taylor believe that reducing the deficit now would have immediate positive effects. 

Our budget will provide economic security for families. It will guarantee a secure retirement for seniors. It will expand opportunity for the young. It will restore fair play to the marketplace. And it will keep the country safe.

As part of our plan, we cut wasteful spending. And I know some of my friends on the other side will object. But let’s put this in perspective. On the current path, we will spend $46 trillion over the next ten years. Under our proposal, we will spend $41 trillion. On the current path, spending will increase by an average 5 percent each year. Under our proposal, it will increase by 3.4 percent. Because the economy will grow faster than spending, the budget will balance by 2023, and debt held by the public will drop to just over half the size of the economy. 

But the most important question isn’t how we balance the budget. It’s why. A budget is a means to an end. And the end is not a neat and tidy spreadsheet. It’s the well-being of the people—because I don’t look at this issue as an accountant. I look at it as a citizen, a husband, and a dad.

It’s not fair to take more from hardworking families to spend more in Washington. It’s not fair to let critical programs like Medicare fall apart. I want Medicare to be there for my kids—just as it’s there for my mom today. But Medicare is going broke. If we want to keep our promises, we have to strengthen this program.

I understand that not everyone shares our view. And I respect that difference of opinion. All I ask is that you join in the effort. If you don’t like our plan, offer your own. We may not agree on how to balance the budget—but we should agree on the need for balance. A balanced budget is a reasonable goal—one that we should share. A budget that never balances is hardly a balanced approach.

So I look forward to our discussion today. And I look forward to the debates ahead. With that, I yield to the ranking member, Mr. Van Hollen.