David Brody: Tell me a little bit about the morality and the debt. Where does your Catholic faith play into the way this budget is crafted?
Paul Ryan: A person's faith is central to how they conduct themselves in public and in private. So to me, using my Catholic faith, we call it the social magisterium, which is how do you apply the doctrine of your teaching into your everyday life as a lay person?
To me, the principle of subsidiarity, which is really federalism, meaning government closest to the people governs best, having a civil society of the principal of solidarity where we, through our civic organizations, through our churches, through our charities, through all of our different groups where we interact with people as a community, that's how we advance the common good. By not having big government crowd out civic society, but by having enough space in our communities so that we can interact with each other, and take care of people who are down and out in our communities.
Those principles are very very important, and the preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenants of Catholic social teaching, means don't keep people poor, don't make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life. Help people get out of poverty out onto life of independence.
David Brody: The liberals will say that about 60 percent of the budget cuts that you are proposing are going to hit low income Americans. What's the response to that?
Paul Ryan: I would say, first of all, we need to fix our social safety net. And spending still continues under our budget under Medicaid and these other programs. They just don't grow at the crazy pace that the president is proposing because those become unsustainable.
Here is the way we look at dealing with the safety net. We want the safety net to be there for people who can't help themselves, and we want it to be there for people who are down on their luck, so that they can get back on their feet and get on with their lives with independence and self-sufficiency. But when we look at the safety net we look at not treating the symptoms of poverty, to make it easier to cope with, and live with, and to stay on. We look at the root causes of poverty so that we can eradicate poverty and end the cycle of poverty.
One in six Americans is in poverty today. More people are in poverty today than since we've been measuring the poverty rates. That's under President Obama's watch. These are a result of President Obama's policies. So, if we want more of the same, stick with President Obama's doing, which is having the highest poverty rates in the country.
What we want is economic opportunity. We want upward mobility. We want to have the kinds of reforms that worked so well in the 90s applied to the other parts of the social safety net so that they're geared to getting people back to work, on their feet, in their lives where they can control their own destiny. We don't want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency, and have that dependency culture. That's not the American way, that's not the American dream.
We want to restore the American dream for everybody in American society so that every person has a chance at equal opportunity to make the most of their lives. The president's vision, I believe, is to equalize the outcome of people's lives - not to promote natural rights and equal opportunity, but new government granted rights and equality of outcome. It's a very different vision of what it used to be, and I really think that's where the president is trying to take this country.
David Brody: The political will from these politicians. Do they have the political will to get through these serious debt issues?
Paul Ryan: Look. What we're experiencing in America, in Wisconsin, are decades of politicians making empty promises to voters. And those empty promises are going to quickly become broken promises if we have a debt crisis. What we believe we owe the country is the truth and solutions to fix these problems. Because if we have a debt crisis, which is just around the corner, then all those programs that people organize their lives around, their retirements around, are going to be broken promises, and we're going to have severe disruption in peoples' lives. That's what happens when you have a debt crisis.
That's the kind of austerity that is imposed if politicians keep kicking the can down the road and not solving these problems, like what President Obama is doing. So people like myself and Scott Walker, we believe that if there is a problem in front of us, we should solve that problem, and the sooner we fix this problem, this debt problem that we have, the better off everybody is going to be. The more likely we can grow the economy, get jobs, get people back to work. More likely people can have the kinds of benefits that they banked on when they retired.
Those are the things we are trying to secure so we can get back to security, back to a debt-free nation, give our kids a higher living standard which is the American legacy, the American idea. And unfortunately, if we succumb in America to this kind of political attack, then courage will never be exercised again.
If Scott Walker is recalled, if we can't persevere on these budget reforms, then what other political leader is going to dare take on these difficult issues before they get out of our control? The answer is none. What governor or state legislature is going to have the courage to address the structural problems in their government if this is what happens to them for trying?
So, what we're saying is we've got to get through this idea that these things are political third rails. We've got to fix the country's problems before it gets out of our control so that we can reclaim the American idea. That's what we're going to have to do is get through all of the demagoguery and all of the distortions that President Obama and his allies are trying to use to try to divide and distract the country.