Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Road Map for America's Future

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has a column in today's Wall Street Journal in which he outlines something called A Road Map for America's Future. Essentially, it is a conservative public policy agenda which addresses prominent issues such as taxation, health care, and entitlement reform. I'll say this much -- the road map certainly does a good job of diagnosing the problems. Here is an excerpt from the relevant section on health care:
The overhaul legislation considered in Congress during the past year failed to correct the fundamental problem in U.S. health care: the distortions of the health care market created by ever-deepening government intrusion. Instead, it sought to expand the government’s role, impose further regulation, as well as job-killing taxes on small businesses. It failed to bend down the medical “cost curve,” meaning more rapid cost increases, resulting in government rationing and price setting. As recently summarized about the legislation under consideration:

[I]ts principles are a reprise of previous reforms – addressing access to health care by expanding government aid to those without adequate insurance, while attempting to control rising costs through centrally administered initiatives. Some of the ideas now on the table may well be sensible in the context of our current system. But fundamentally, the “comprehensive” reform being contemplated merely cements in place the current system – insurance-based, employment-centered, administratively complex. It addresses the underlying causes of our health-care crisis only obliquely, if at all; indeed, by extending the current system to more people, it will likely increase the ultimate cost of true reform.

It also sought to establish a huge new government entitlement, and aimed to drive private insurance out of the market. The proposals were rooted in an ideological view that always sees government as the necessary solution to any significant problem.
Here is an excerpt on taxes:
Individual income taxes are needlessly complex, riddled with special provisions that manipulate individuals taxpayers’ behavior and reduce economic efficiency. Professor Daniel N. Shaviro of the New York University School of Law has testified: “[T]he tax system needlessly aggravates and complicates the lives of lower and middle income taxpayers. Congress can and should address this, by making filing and compliance less painful, even insofar as taxes paid by such individuals remain approximately constant.”

When the U.S. tax code was established in 1913, it contained roughly 400 pages of laws and regulations. Since then, the Federal tax code has grown exponentially and stands at more than 70,000 pages today. Since 2001 alone, there have been more than 3,250 changes to the code, or more than one per day. Many of the major changes over the years have involved carving out special preferences, exclusions, or deductions for various activities or groups. The special tax breaks and preferences now add up to more than $875 billion per year. These layers of carve-outs and changes have made the code unfair, inefficient, and wildly complex. The Treasury Department’s guide book on tax regulations, issued to help users interpret the meaning of the code, comprises six full volumes and sums to nearly 12,000 pages.
Looking over some of the proposed solutions I am not entirely sold on all of them, such as setting up state-based health insurance exchanges. It nevertheless seems like something worth building on at the very least, and a hopeful sign Republicans are ready to put forth workable ideas should they regain control of Congress.

Update: Good comments from Rep. Mike Pence.

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