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White House Budget--Bold Reform or Status Quo?


Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding Wednesday's release of the President's budget and the legacy of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher:

"Now, today, I plan to talk about the President's budget. But first, I also want to say a word about Margaret Thatcher.

"Margaret Thatcher was one of the most transformative political figures of the 20th Century.

"She was a revolutionary, really, a tireless tribune for what she called "popular capitalism' -- her "crusade to enfranchise the many.' Thatcher's methods were razor-sharp wit and the force of her will, which had toughened through decades of plowing through obstacles.

"A woman of humble beginnings, she charged headfirst against a cross-partisan ruling class that had become calcified in office, an elite clique that had grown impotent in the face of the sort of post-war economic challenges that have long since drained the vitality from Western democracies that never had a leader like her.

"The starched dukes and faceless union men who traditionally alternated the reins of British power sneered at "that woman,' as they called her -- the "grocer's daughter' who knew nothing of their ways, whose middle-class instincts were unsuited to the business of governing.

"And yet she outmaneuvered them all.

"When Margaret Thatcher finally wrested the keys of office from those who had made peace with Britain's decline in a way she never could, she set in motion a whirlwind of reforms.

"None were easy. The vested interests opposed her every move. But, in the teeth of fierce opposition, she ignited what could best be described as a political and economic earthquake -- one with a tide of global reverberations.

"The kind of policies and ideas she inspired saw dictatorships and entrenched bureaucracies come crashing down, grinding poverty lose its grip, and the fossils of socialism recede into the surf. And in the wake of this wave of reform stood freer people with a greater say over their own lives, and a greater hope for the future.

"That is Margaret Thatcher's legacy. And, in some ways, the parallels to our own day are hard to escape.

"When Margaret Thatcher took office, Britain was gripped by wrenching economic turmoil -- turmoil of a somewhat different kind than, but not entirely dissimilar to, our own. But, through unbending confidence in the power of free markets, and in the power of free people to order their lives more intelligently than centralized elites, she turned the tide.

"And so we mourn her passing, but we still have much to learn from her courage and example. Because in the years ahead, we'll need to draw from it as conservatives look to turn the tide here in the U.S. and set about a renewal of our own.

"Now, on another matter, tomorrow the President is set to unveil his budget -- the details of his plan for America's future.

"Is it going to be a visionary blueprint that focuses on growing the economy instead of the government? A budget that can help, rather than continue to hurt, job creation?

"Is it going to be a budget that balances? 10 years from now? 20 years from now? Ever?

"Is it going to be a reformist document that makes bold choices?

"Will he finally drop the tax-hike fanaticism that's, frankly, starting to enter the realm of the absurd?

"Well, from what we've heard so far, the prospects don't look great.

"We hear that, like the Senate Democrat budget, it will never balance -- ever.

"We hear it contains only about $600 billion or less in deficit savings over 10 years, which is roughly the level of the deficit in the first 6 months of this fiscal year.

"We hear it contains new spending proposals and does little to address the drivers of our debt.

"We hear it contains tax hike upon tax hike upon tax hike -- and, in fact, all of the deficit reduction I just mentioned would be derived from myriad tax increases rather than spending reductions.

"So, apart from reports of a modest entitlement change -- and we'll need to see the details on that -- it sounds like the White House just tossed last year's budget in the microwave.

"Look: this budget is already two months late, so I sincerely hope that is not the case. Because if it is -- what a colossal waste of time. What a disappointment.

"The American people deserve better.

"In a statement released yesterday, President Obama said Margaret Thatcher taught us that "we are not simply carried along by the currents of history…[that] we can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will.'

"Well, what I'm saying this morning is that this is your moment to do just that, Mr. President.

"Lady Thatcher did not save her country from the abyss by taking half-measures or tiptoeing around special interest groups. She pushed through ground-breaking reform after ground-breaking reform, usually under fire from all sides and often over the objections of powerful leaders in her own party and Cabinet. Had she governed by opinion poll, I'm sure she would have been more popular while in office. And Britain would never have recovered from the abysmal state in which she found it.

"So Mr. President, if you are ready to embrace bold reform -- to take the steps that are needed to make our entitlement programs permanently solvent and grow the economy -- then Republicans are ready to work with you.

"Because the time for pretending America's challenges can be solved with more of the same is over. The time has come to summon the political courage to move beyond the status quo, to put the tax hikes and the poll-tested gimmicks aside, and to do what must be done."

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