Promoting New Ideas to Expand Opportunity
Michael Medved: I know you don't accept for a moment this grim, downgraded, declinist view of America's economic future, so what's the main thing we need to do to avoid all these dire outcomes that the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, is now forecasting?
Paul Ryan: Well, to cut to the chase, we need a new government and new policies. We--meaning Republicans, those of us who are in elected office--need to show people that we have better ideas for tackling these problems and that this awful new normal of malaise, decline, and retreat is not inevitable and that we have better ideas for turning this around. Better ideas for economic growth; better ideas for upward mobility and fighting poverty; better ideas for a strong national defense and a confident foreign policy; and better ideas for growing this economy and getting out [of] this slow-growth rut we are in. . . .
The government over the next ten years will bring in $1.6 trillion less in revenues, and the key culprit of this slow growth--less revenues--is that more and more people won't work, and they'll be encouraged not to work by Obamacare and other things. It's sort of more welfare, less jobs, slower economic growth and by the way, a debt crisis at the end of that day. And that to me is something we can prevent and so we, those of us who don't agree with this direction, owe you, our fellow citizens, an alternative and that is exactly what we intend on doing.
Renewing the Fight against Poverty
Michael Medved: Let's talk for just a moment about an alternative in terms of helping the poor. . . . Your report shows that in FY2012, we spent $799 billion on programs for the poor. We get a lot of bang for that buck, did we?
Paul Ryan: No. We spent nearly $800 billion on nearly 100 programs for the poor, on welfare programs, and it's getting worse. More people in poverty--the poverty rate is at a generational high, and with these new programs the President has put in place like Obamacare, what we're learning is that more people will stay in the poverty trap. . . .
What the government has done for the last generation is they see a problem and create a new government program in Washington and they layer it on top of the other ones. And this incredibly complex bureaucracy wastes a lot of money, but it also sets up a perverse incentive that we call the "poverty trap," where people get on these programs and if they try to leave these programs to go work at a job, they are worse off. And so it sort of traps them where [they] are and freezes them in place, and that's why we have economic immobility.
The President these days is prone to talking about income inequality when he is really advocating more of the same, which just freezes people in place and makes it harder for people to become upwardly mobile, to grab that ladder of life and start climbing it. And that's what we're going to respond with--which are better ideas for economic growth and better ideas for upward mobility. And I think it's going to be far better than what the President is offering because he can't talk about economic growth because we are five years into his policies and all we have to show for it is this lousy website.
Strengthening the Safety Net
Paul Ryan: We're saying we need to clean the system up, reform the system. In 1996, welfare reform reformed one program: cash welfare. And yet there are several dozen others that were unreformed and that have gone [in] the wrong direction and have become more dependency-producing programs than independent-producing programs, than getting people on their feet onto lives of self-sufficiency. As conservatives, we're not against all of government. We want a limited government that's effective and does what it does well. So that's the point we keep trying to make is that there is a role for government in having a safety net that's there for those who can't help themselves and a safety net that's there for people who are able-bodied and down on their luck. And we want to give them the assistance they need to get back on their feet. And right now, with all these different programs and all this money we're throwing at it, it's not working, and we need to clean that up.
Recognizing the Dignity of Work
Paul Ryan: We have to clean this mess up so it always pays to work, so that we can emphasize the dignity of work, and to reintegrate the poor back into our communities and to be a part of this economy. And right now, we're isolating the poor with all of these programs. As well intended as they may be, they are backfiring on us.
Offering Solutions to Today's Challenges
Michael Medved: Is there something we can do now, Congressman Ryan? I mean, right now you've got a problem with Harry Reid controlling the U.S. Senate, which let's hope is temporary. But before the election, I mean, with these economic numbers looking so scary and troubling, is there something we can do on maybe even a bipartisan basis to correct things right now?
Paul Ryan: Well, I don't see big ideas in the offing with this divided government. Just from doing budget negotiations, I can tell there is so little common ground on these things and just a very different philosophy to begin with. For instance, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Dave Camp, just put out a tax reform plan the other day, and I just don't see the administration embracing that with two arms because it lowers tax rates for everybody across the board and that runs contrary to their thought of income redistribution, class warfare, and the like.
We put out a tax-reform plan from the Ways and Means Committee that the Joint Committee on Taxation, that is the official scorekeeper of these things--ran an estimate of it and one of their estimates said it would increase the economy by 20 percent, create 1.8 million jobs, and increase average take-home pay for families every year by $1,300. Just cleaning up the tax code, getting rid of the crony capitalism, and lowering our tax rates, and simplifying it so families can keep more of what they earn--that's an idea that the House put out there just a week ago. And you can sort of hear the crickets chirping on the other side of the aisle. . . .
We've passed the Keystone pipeline and energy legislation. We have about 40 bills sitting in the Senate collecting dust that Senator Reid will not allow to come up for a vote to even get to the President's desk. And so that is a huge challenge of ours. And so what we do as Republicans is we're not going to phone it in for the rest of the year and just wait for the elections; we're going to put ideas out there.
The Administration's Troubling Foreign Policy
Michael Medved: Very quickly, any response on what the President could, should, or ought to do about this extraordinarily gloomy and menacing situation in Europe regarding Russia and the Ukraine?
Paul Ryan: I think it's one more chapter in what happens when you project weakness abroad through your foreign policy, through your defense policy. And aggression fills that vacuum, and I think we are seeing that. The things he ought to be doing are rallying the case for sanctions. Specifically, we should be upping our exports of natural gas to this region and showing that there will be real consequences for these kinds of actions and calling it for what it is. The fear I have is that all the domestic problems the President has created, I know we can fix those. I know we can fix the budget, the economy, health care if we win elections and put these good ideas that we're offering in place. It's the lasting damage to foreign policy and world affairs that's going to be a deeper hole that we're going to have to dig out of as a country. And I really worry that he has put our foreign policy and our defense policy on such a bad trajectory that it's going to have huge consequences that are going to last a long time in this world.