House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin talked with NPR's David Green about this spring's budget debate and possible areas of agreement to get a down payment on the debt. Highlights are below and the full interview can be found here.
The President's budget fails to act on our spending problem:
"With a net spending increase of about $1 trillion, resulting in only $119 billion of deficit reduction to begin in year 2020 -- four years after he has left office -- I hardly see this as compromise or moving in a direction of fiscal responsibility. He proposes that we raise the deficit next year. We should be lowering the deficit. The deficit and debt are harming our economy. If we want to restore opportunity, if we want to go after the root cause of poverty, if we want to get out of this new normal of slow growth and shrinking paychecks, we have to break the failed policies of the past. Unfortunately this budget is more of the status quo.
"[This budget] takes more from families to spend more in Washington. Higher taxes accompanied with higher spending and higher spending. The budget never balances. We want a different direction. We think that we need to reform our entitlement programs now to prevent them from going bankrupt. Doing it this way will prevent people in and near retirement from experiencing any changes. We think that we should balance the budget because we think that it is necessary to get the debt under control so that we can grow the economy. We think that we can do pro-growth tax reforms so that we can plug loopholes and lower rates for families and businesses to grow the economy."
For the first time in four years, Congress moves forward with the budget process:
"What I see this year that is different from the last four years is that the President put out a budget with some olive-branch proposals. The Senate actually passed a budget. They have not done that in four years. What that does is it keeps the budget process continuing. It keeps the process that we have had in Congress since 1974, called the 1974 Budget Act, moving. It keeps us talking and moving towards common ground on getting a budget agreement. This is the first time in this presidency that I have seen a chance at a bipartisan budget agreement. I am cautiously optimistic about that."
Assessing the prospects of getting a down payment on our debt:
"Do I believe that there is going to be a grand bargain where we fix all of our fiscal problems? I do not necessarily see that. Do I see an opportunity to get a down payment on the debt and deficit? I hope so. The President is adding a few proposals that get us toward that kind of compromise. That is where I am cautiously optimistic.
"We know that we are not going to get everything that we propose in our budget. We achieve $5 trillion dollars in spending savings in our budget. The President raises net spending by about a trillion dollars. There is a pretty big difference between the two. Do I believe that he is going to come all the way and agree with every one of our $5 trillion dollars in savings? No I do not. I think that is unrealistic. Do I believe that somewhere in between us we can find a common ground to meet? That is my goal and I hope that we can get there."