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At the 4% Growth Project conference, Paul Gigot introduced Congressman Paul Ryan as "a dangerous man" — because that's what he is. He's dangerous to the status quo in Washington, and he's willing not just to propose concrete solutions to the country's problems but to take the hits from proposing them publicly, over and over again. "He must want a short career in politics," Gigot said he thought of Ryan when he first began his then-Quixotic quest for budget and tax reform. But at last his efforts have begun to bear fruit. In his speech, Ryan reinforced the idea, and ideal, of America as the home of growth and prosperity and opportunity. But we are quickly reaching a fiscal tipping point because of debt. Worse, we're also approaching a "moral tipping point" in which there are "more takers than makers." And who would get hurt most by austerity? The poor, the sick, and the elderly — the people who need government, and growth, the most. But "we still have time to get things under control," Ryan said, before we fall into debt and decline. We now face a choice between an "opportunity society" and a "government-centered society." The danger is the creation of a permanent professional class of government bureaucrats who decide the winners and losers, elevating crony capitalism above entrepreneurs and substituting the law of connectedness over the rule of law. We've tried chasing higher spending with higher taxes and a more complex tax code with more loopholes. The result? Debt hangover and greater uncertainty. Instead, "let's preempt austerity," Ryan argued. The tax code is on the verge of "blowing up, so let's reform it." We need to keep an eye on competitiveness. If we tax job creators at high rates, then our foreign competitors will win. We can't tax ourselves at twice the level that our competitors are taxing their populations. Only the combination of economic growth and entitlement and tax reform can avert the looming debt crisis. "We believe in equality of opportunity, not outcomes." We must reaffirm our commitment, Ryan said, to put these ideas out there and win by the power of ideas, not by divisiveness and class warfare. As for being a dangerous man, Ryan said, "If you're going to be good at this job, you have to be willing to lose this job."
Robert Asahina has been a newspaper and magazine editor and writer, a book publishing executive and editor, and a data management consultant. He was editor in chief and deputy publisher of Broadway Books, president and publisher of the adult publishing group of Golden Books, and vice president and senior editor of Simon and Schuster; deputy managing editor of The New York Sun and an editor at The New York Times Book Review, Harper's, George, and The Public Interest; and a consultant at Freddie Mac. He is the author of "Just Americans" and of numerous articles and reviews for The Wall Street Journal, Harper's, The New York Times Book Review, and elsewhere.
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