The Roadmap

Republicans, who have capitalized on the burgeoning public anger over debt, face their own test on the issue if they manage to take the House back this fall. One of their own, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, expects the GOP to put its money where its mouth is if the party wins back control, and put the fiscal house in order. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) started working on his "Roadmap," a blueprint for fiscal solvency, nearly a decade ago, back when his party ran Washington. Republicans were tearing through budget surpluses back then but Ryan could see the trajectory of entitlement spending, of government as a percentage of GDP, of an aging population's health benefits far outpacing the growth of wages. He could see what he describes as a coming tsunami.
 
You should visit Ryan's website and learn why, though we aren't Greece, the United States is stuck on a similar path of unsustainable government spending and can't keep it up for long.
 
Democrats are busy attacking Ryan's plan as the end of the safety net, and Ryan and his deft and determined team fight back quickly, armed with details, every time. Political consultants have told him from the start he should stay away from any discussion of entitlement reforms, and he has ignored them all along, running on his Roadmap for reelection for years in the 1st district of Wisconsin, where this year he does not yet have an opponent.
 
Ryan said Americans are more receptive to the discussion than politicians think. He hopes by raising the fiscal challenge in a specific, detailed way — that shows it's not too late to change course — the subject will no longer be the third rail of the politics but that failure to address it will the new third rail. Ryan's plan — pretty much the only one out there — is gaining traction with reform-minded candidates, and several Republicans, including former Sen. Dan Coats in Indiana and Marco Rubio in Florida are running on it.
 
"I've been rally pleasantly surprised and excited about how well-received it has been, because people are hungry for somebody to tackle the problem," Ryan told me in a recent interview. "They may not agree with these specific solutions, but they're just happy you're trying and I think people will be rewarded for that."
 
Ryan said we can't balance the budget soon, but that budget reforms like his could alter the trajectory we are on. And time is slipping away. Ryan won't insist that his party rally around his Roadmap. But, as I explained in my column this week, he wants Republicans to find the political might to finally wage the budget reform battle they have spoken of for so long.
 
"Does our party have the guts to stand up and be for the specific set of ideas and reforms really necessary to prevent the debt crisis from hitting us, or are we just going to live like we have been before, being intimidated from taking these things on?" Ryan said. "If we do, then we're going to be a welfare state."
 

WILL REPUBLICANS CUT SPENDING NEXT YEAR IF THEY'RE IN CHARGE?Ask A.B. returns Tuesday, June 1. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.

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