Our nation is on an unsustainable fiscal course. The three major entitlements – Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – alone are set to eclipse historical tax levels by 2052 and a realistic assessment of the Congressional Budget Office baseline shows the government piling on an additional $13 trillion over the next ten years.
The time for pointing out the existence of a problem is over. Both Democrats and Republicans now agree entitlement reform must be a top priority. The question now is what exactly the inevitable reform will include. Specifically, does Congress drastically raise taxes and allow spending to skyrocket or do they maintain spending and revenue at historical levels?
This afternoon Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), along with several other House Republicans, held a press conference presenting the updated “Roadmap for America’s Future.” The bill, introduced today, would return the nation to a sustainable fiscal path without raising taxes. The proposal, which has been scored by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office accomplishes this by focusing on four specific areas for reform:
First, the Roadmap would give universal access to health care by providing a substantial tax credit to enable individuals to purchase their own insurance, allowing for the purchase of insurance across state lines and creating state-based high risk pools to provide those with pre-existing conditions affordable health care options.
Second, the bill would reform Medicare specifically focusing on preserving existing benefits for those over 55 and ensuring future generations of elderly citizens have access to affordable care. Fully funding Medical Savings Accounts for low income beneficiaries, and creating a Medicare payment of $11,000 to purchase Medicare approved plans would contain costs and ensure coverage for generations to come.
Third, the legislation would put Social Security spending on a sustainable course by offering citizens the choice to invest in personal retirement accounts comparable to the Thrift Savings Account used by federal employees. This in combination with slightly increasing the retirement age will finally set Social Security on a sustainable path.
Finally, the bill would reform the tax code by implementing a simple two tier tax system. Individuals with income up to $50,000 and households with income up $100,000 would pay 10 percent. Those with higher income would pay 25 percent. The Roadmap also eliminates the alternative minimum tax, the death tax and the corporate income tax. The corporate income tax, which is currently the second highest in the world, is replaced with an 8.5 percent business consumption tax.
These bold reforms mark an important departure from the Washington norm of ignoring the looming fiscal crisis. In the past politicians avoided entitlement reform in an effort to steer clear of a potential political backlash. Congressman Ryan’s Roadmap confronts entitlement reform head on and proves Congress does have the option to return the nation to a fiscally sustainable course without increasing taxes.