An airline pilot might call it a near miss.

But while I wasn’t hoping for a government shut-down, I wasn’t fearing it either.
I thought of it like any other federal holiday, employees take a vacation day or two, a few tourists are inconvenienced, and the world continues to spin – with a little less DC traffic during rush hour.

Regardless, the threat of a shutdown served as a great attention getter for the coming budget battle only now heating up. A battle I expect will determine whether we become another European style socialist nation or move back toward our roots of individual freedom and responsibility that made this country great.

On one side are socialist liberals, who, for the sake of power, want government to control as much of our daily lives as possible. They believe that enlightened government officials can decide better than the average citizen what is best for them – a philosophy in direct contrast to the way the Founding Fathers saw things.

On the other side are those who believe the proper role of government is to support the people in their pursuit of happiness, as they see it. They recognize that along with the freedom to succeed, must, by necessity, come the freedom to fail. This ideal of individual freedom and responsibility is arguably the biggest single factor in the greatness of the United States.

Americans are a caring people, and we decided long ago that reasonable safety nets for those who fall are a legitimate function of government. Yet these things must be done with wisdom and prudence so as to not destroy the wealth building system that makes the safety nets possible. And that’s where we are at today.

Thanks to the arrogance and appetite for power of too many of our leaders, those willing to play on the natural desire of people for handouts, we are moving dangerously close to socialism, a system that is historically ineffective, where eventual bankruptcy is certain, and where great civilizations crumble.

Everyone agrees that we must get spending under control. But like the addict returning to the needle, it is hard to break the cycle of power bought with government issued goodies. That is exactly what is happening in Wisconsin, where unions are seeing their investment in this cycle destroyed by a Governor willing to make tough decisions to balance the budget.

But even President Obama is now heralding what everyone has known for years. “Beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect those investments that will help America compete for new jobs.” I wish he had added, “and continue to live as a free and independent people.”

However, as many state governors are already discovering, bringing an overweight budget back into line is fraught with political hazards. The recent near shutdown is a perfect example.
This year, the federal government will spend close to four trillion dollars. To pay that four trillion,  we will have to take out 1.5 trillion in new loans from our creditors. The 37.7 billion that the government has now cut from the budget (only at the threat of a shutdown) was less than one percent of the total spending for the year. And it was less than two percent of the amount we will take out in loans.

That’s like if you and your spouse have a monthly budget of $4,000 dollars, and you are threatening to move out rather than cut $36.00.

Yet Senator Harry Reid, who fought against this miniscule cut, tooth and nail, now declares after the battle, “We must get our fiscal house in order …We’ve agreed to an historic level of cuts for this fiscal year.”

What’s sad is that these probably were historic cuts, but perhaps it is an early sign of the
direction the country is finally willing to go.

Remember, there are only two legitimate ways to reduce the debt: raise revenue (taxes) or decrease spending. But spending cuts means less government while raising taxes means more. Which do you think the liberals prefer?

So now the real battle begins. To make any significant cuts in the federal budget we will have to address big entitlements like Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. This can be done without hurting people, just like the highly successful welfare reform of the 1990s did by creating programs that encourage personal responsibility and thrift.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said, “We are facing the most predictable crisis in the history of our country.” And then, he came up with a plan which puts control of Medicaid more under the control of the states, puts Medicare more under the control of those who use it, freezes spending at 2008 levels and affects no one’s Medicare over the age of 55.

It is not a perfect plan, but it was bold, courageous move which gives more timid legislators a place to start.

In putting forth this plan, Ryan has set himself up to be targeted (destroyed if possible) by the punditry of the left who see their means to power slipping away, just like in Wisconsin.

But just like the good pilot who, after committing to take you to Chicago, discovers a fuel leak and decides to land in Charleston, do you really want him to fly on – do you?