A Critique of Representative Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity”

Paul Ryan—U.S. Republican representative for Wisconsin’s First District and current chairman of the House Budget Committee—rose to nationwide prominence in April 2011 when he proposed a long-term budget plan called “The Path to Prosperity.” With overwhelming Republican support, Ryan’s plan passed the House on April 15, 2011.1 The Democrat-controlled Senate, however, voted down Ryan’s plan on May 25, 2011.

Despite its defeat in the Senate,2 Ryan’s plan remains influential on and the ideal for many in the Republican party. For this reason, it is worth examining.

What follows is a critique of key components of Ryan’s Path to Prosperity plan, using the principle of individual rights as a standard of reference. Specific provisions, and the plan as a whole, will be graded from A+ to F according to how much they promote or corrode rights-respecting government.

Repeal of ObamaCare

Perhaps the best element of the Ryan plan is its commitment to repealing President Obama’s “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” more popularly known as ObamaCare. In particular, the individual mandate in ObamaCare is an egregious violation of rights. The mandate forces people to buy a government-approved health-insurance plan from a private company or to face a fine.3

The president’s health-care law is described in the Path to Prosperity as taking the United States “one step closer to [a] fully government-run system.”4

The country needs to move away from this centralized system, not towards it. This budget starts by repealing the costly new government-run health care law . . . making sure that not a penny goes toward implementing the new law.5

Ryan’s plan often mentions the goal of repealing ObamaCare. On the subject of taxes, Ryan notes that ObamaCare contains “roughly $800 billion in new taxes and tax increases—the result of dozens of changes to tax law that added complexity and unfairness to the code.”6 These include a “0.9 percent surtax on wages and a 3.8 percent surtax on interest, dividends, and capital gains” that would “apply to filers in the top two income brackets” and a Cadillac tax that would, “starting in 2018, impose a new tax on high-cost, employer-provided health plans.”7

This aspect of Ryan’s plan, which would reverse America’s movement toward full-blown socialized medicine, gets a well-deserved A+.

Security and the “Global War on Terror”

In Ryan’s plan, security spending sees no significant change over the course of ten years. During that time, this year’s budget of $711 billion will only increase or decrease by $90 billion.8 . . .

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1 “Ryan Budget Plan Passes House; Only 4 GOP Reps Vote No,” April 15, 2011, http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/04/15/6478024-ryan-budget-plan-passes-house-only-4-gop-reps-vote-no.

2 Gail Russel Chaddock, “Senate Democrats Shoot Down GOP’s House Budget Plan. Now What?” CS Monitor, May 25, 2011, http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2011/0525/Senate-Democrats-shoot-down-GOP-s-House-budget-plan.-Now-what.

3 Paul J. Beard II, “ObamaCare v. the Constitution,” The Objective Standard, Summer 2011, https://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2011-summer/private-sector-colleges.asp.

4 Paul Ryan, Path to Prosperity, p. 30.

5 Ryan, Path to Prosperity, p. 30.

6 Ryan, Path to Prosperity, p. 52.

7 Ryan, Path to Prosperity, p. 52.

8 Ryan, Path to Prosperity, p. 64.

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