Washington (CNN) – As Washington continues its haggling over spending cuts and tax increases, Rep. Paul Ryan sought to explain to Americans on Saturday why eliminating the federal deficit was a worthwhile goal.
The House Budget Committee chairman unveiled a plan earlier this week that aims to balance the budget in a decade, a much quicker goal than in previous plans.
Ryan's proposal includes the repeal of President Barack Obama's health care law, and makes dramatic changes to Medicare, though they wouldn't affect current enrollees.
Selling those measures to Americans has already proved a difficult fight for Ryan, who ran alongside Mitt Romney is last year's presidential election. Romney's economic plan closely mirrored the budgets Ryan has proposed, and was the subject of ruthless attacks from Democrats.
But Ryan said in the weekly GOP address on Saturday that "the crucial question isn't how we balance the budget. It's why."
"The budget is a means to an end," he continued. "We're not balancing the budget as an accounting exercise. We're not trying to simply make numbers add up. We're trying to improve people's lives."
He went on to explain how his budget would revamp the tax code, approve the construction of the controversial Keystone oil pipeline, and cut what he calls wasteful government spending.
"If we take these steps, our economy will grow," Ryan said. "Our country will regain confidence. And we will reignite the American Dream. All we need is leadership. We owe the American people a responsible, balanced budget. It's not fair to take more from families just to spend more in Washington."
Not everyone in Washington shares Ryan's fervor for balancing the budget. On Tuesday, Obama said in an interview that he wasn't interested in "a balanced budget just for the sake of balance."
"My goal is how do we grow the economy, put people back to work, and if we do that we are going to be bringing in more revenue," he told ABC News. "If we control spending and we have a smart entitlement package, then potentially what you have is balance – but it is not balance on the backs of the poor, the elderly, students who need student loans, families that have disabled kids. That is not the right way to balance our budget."
And on Friday, a fellow Republican questioned the single-minded focus on budgets, telling a crowd of conservative activists the attention on number crunching was a "sideshow."
"Today's conservatism is in love with zeroes," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said at the Conservative Political Action Conference. "We seem to have an obsession with government bookkeeping. I'm here to tell you, it's a rigged game. It's the wrong game for us to be playing."