Sound fiscal policy is essential for sound governance. History shows that powerful nations that engage in reckless spending and borrowing eventually fall into periods of decline. It would be disastrous if the United States were to drift into such a slide.

What’s needed are fundamental reforms that will change the direction of key programs in ways that will last for decades. This kind of project will take many years to achieve, and some very important policy changes are likely to require lengthy transition provisions to reassure voters who are accustomed to current arrangements. But the current welfare state wasn’t built in a day, and changing its orientation is going to require persistence and patience.

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For all the damage that ObamaCare has done, it has also led to an awakening among Americans about the inadequacies and costs of a government-centered health care system. This awakening has created an enormous opportunity for conservatives. But making the most of that opportunity will require being clear about what is wrong with ObamaCare, why it needs to be replaced, and what a replacement must involve.