Charlie Rose Talks to Paul RyanBy
You just attended the President's speech on reducing the debt. Was it what you expected?
No, quite honestly, Charlie, it was pretty much the opposite of what I expected. I had thought that with his invitation [to attend the speech] … he was going to extend an olive branch so he could get on the path to bipartisan solutions. And we got anything but that. We got dramatic distortions of our budget proposal. In the beginning of the week when he sent his campaign manager out to mention he was going to do this speech rather than his Budget Director or his Treasury Secretary, a little red flag went up in my mind. But then when I got to the speech, and we heard this, it was extremely political, very partisan.
And he is now proposing—after just creating a fiscal commission, which he disavowed and didn't include in his budget—to create another commission to come up with ideas on how to fix the budget. He punted in his budget. Now he says let's have another commission, and, oh, by the way, let's have this commission produce less deficit reduction, less savings than the prior commission produced. So I guess what we're going to have to do is do this without the President. We're going to have to talk to our colleagues here in the House and the Senate … because we're not getting any leadership from the President.
President Obama called your plan "a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can't afford to fix them … but we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy." How do you respond?
I don't even know what to say about that. First of all, we're not even talking about cutting taxes. We're talking about keeping tax revenues where they are [by making the Bush tax cuts permanent] and cleaning up all the junk in the tax code for a flatter, fair, simpler tax system. So we're not talking about cutting taxes. We want to keep the tax revenues where they are and fix the tax code. And with respect to all the spending—you know, that partisan-spending rhetoric—if you don't fix entitlements, Charlie, if you don't get spending under control, there's not going to be any money left for those other things, for roads, for bridges, for education, for the environment. So I'm amazed that he would use that kind of hyperbolic, hyperventilating rhetoric to describe our plan.
The President says he can save money over the next 10 years by reducing the cost of health care, and that's more important than creating a voucher program.
I actually believe he knows that this is not a voucher program. His experts know that this is a premium support program. Vouchers give the money to the person. They go out in the marketplace. That's not what this is. People get a choice. There is a difference of opinion here. And this is where he did show us some acknowledgment of the facts, the acknowledgment was health-care costs are growing too fast. The President just said he wants this unelected bureaucracy with no oversight or control from Congress to indiscriminately cut Medicare reimbursements, Medicaid, meaning price controls from government. That doesn't work.
Do you and the President differ on the social compact between this country and its citizens?
I would say yes, and let me explain why. We believe that we need to repair our social safety net. We very much believe we have to have one. And that the social safety net needs to adapt to the 21st century. … We don't want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls people into lives of complacency and dependency. We believe in upward mobility, equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes. So there is a difference in philosophy here.
The Administration wants to treat the debt ceiling as an issue alone. Are you prepared to do that?
No. Because this is the only game in town. It's a must-pass piece of legislation. As we consider the debt limit we want to attach spending cuts and spending controls to it.
The President talks a lot about winning the future, and suggests we can't do that without investments in education and science.
I think investment is another euphemism for spending. Look, 42¢ on every dollar the government spends today is borrowed money. Half of that comes from other countries, No. 1 of which is China. You can't sustain a viable economy if you rely on other countries to cash flow your government. We've got to get spending under control.