Rep. Paul Ryan tells Newsmax that America is at a “tipping point” and could be headed down a “very dangerous” path toward a social welfare state.
But the Wisconsin Republican insists it’s not too late to change course, and offers a plan he says will balance the budget and erase the huge deficit looming in the country’s future.
Rep. Ryan, first elected in 1998, is the Ranking Republican on the Budget Committee. In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, he notes that congressional Democrats missed the April 15 deadline to adopt a budget and likely won’t pass any budget at all this year.
“If you look at the budget they want to pass, the one the president sent us, it’s got $2 trillion in higher taxes, doubles the debt in five years, triples the debt in 10 years,” he says.
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“That’s a budget they know is not going to sit right with the American people. So after having just passed the largest entitlement in 35 years, after having passed a trillion dollars of borrowing and spending for stimulus, I guess they’re just not going to budget anymore.
“What they’ll do is pass what we call a deeming resolution, which simply gives the Appropriations Committee the money they need to spend on all these new government agencies.”
Ryan says he agrees with critics of President Barack Obama who maintain that with his huge increases in spending and borrowing, he is moving the nation on a socialist path.
“I would argue that we’re reaching a tipping point in this country, after which the majority of Americans are more dependent on the government than they are upon themselves,” he says. “And this budget accelerates that tipping point.
“In the last year of the president’s budget, the interest on our debt is about $914 billion, about a trillion dollars in interest. And that’s assuming interest rates remain low and we don’t have an inflation problem, which I think is not a safe assumption.
“So if you ask are we changing this country from what I would call the American idea of free enterprise and limited government to more of a European style socialist economy, a cradle-to-grave welfare state, yes, we’re clearly on that trajectory.”
Ryan points out that 20 percent of Americans today get 75 percent of their income from the federal government, and another 20 percent get 45 percent, while 60 percent of Americans get more benefits in dollar value from the federal government than they pay back in taxes. Obama’s budget moves that to 70 percent of Americans, he says.
“What that means is, once that budget is fully put in place, three out of 10 families in America are either supplying or supplementing the incomes of seven other families in this country. That is economically destructive. It’s politically inequitable, and unsustainable.”
In 2008, Ryan introduced legislation he called his Roadmap for America’s Future, and he recently released a second version of that plan.
“I want to show the American people, which I have done with numbers certified by the Congressional Budget Office, there is a difference,” he says in discussing his Roadmap.
“We do not have to go down this path of converting America into a social welfare state.
“It is not too late for this country to turn course and reclaim the American idea and the founding principles which made us the freest, most prosperous country in the world. It’s not too late. It’s achievable.
“Medicare and Medicaid — and now we have this new entitlement — are the biggest drivers of our debt. That’s the healthcare system itself. I would change the healthcare system from what it is right now — a third party system, which sort of displaces the consumer, the patient, as being the nucleus of the system — and add a patient-centered system by [having] the tax preferences go to the individual rather than the job.
“Number two, I would voucher out Medicaid for people who are on the poverty line, and allow them to buy private health insurance like everybody else. I would also liberalize the insurance market with interstate shopping and medical liability reform.
“For Medicare, I would switch the system to one like we have in Congress. No changes for anybody above the age of 55, they’ve already organized their lives around Medicare. But [I would] switch the system so that it works in a way like I have as a congressman.
“I get a payment from the government. I select from a list of competing private plans for my benefits. In this case we would adjust that payment to help lower income people for their out-of-pocket costs. That payment grows if your health condition deteriorates, and there would be not as much of a payment for people who are wealthy.
“Doing it in that way, according to CBO and the Medicare actuaries, makes Medicare solvent and wipes out its underfunded liability.”
For Social Security, Ryan would allow people under age 55, if they so desired, to invest a third of their payroll taxes in a personal account run by Social Security, just like the plan he has as a congressman, so they can get a better rate of return on their money.
That way, “it’s my money, my account,” he tells Newsmax. “You can will it to your heirs if you pass on. You have a nest egg that grows for you. You can harness the power of compound interest and actually own your retirement benefits.
“Those are the things that I’m basically proposing, which all taken together makes our economy grow faster and makes sure that we have higher living standards for future generations.
“It not just balances the budget, but pays off our national debt, and makes sure that our government stays lean and limited and roughly the same size it has been historically, instead of going on this very dangerous trajectory where the government doubles in size by the time my three kids are my age, where the tax burden doubles in size, where we have an inflation problem and we have crushing high interest rates.
“We know for a fact that we’re giving the next generation a lower standard of living. We’ve never done that in America before. And what I want to simply say is, with this Roadmap plan, or something that would be done like it, we don’t have to go down that path.
“This is a plan to renew America in the 21st century, to make people more powerful in and of themselves, not the government.”
Ryan says he opposes the financial reform proposals being considered by Congress because they would add new layers of regulators and bureaucracies, even though regulators already in place failed to stave off the recent economic calamity.
It also amplifies the “too big to fail” doctrine and sets up a permanent bailout system for big financial institutions that will only invite more risk-taking — “phony capitalism,” Ryan calls it.
He adds that the timing of the charges being leveled against investment firm Goldman Sachs is “suspect” and can be seen as encouraging the passage of those financial reform proposals.
Returning to healthcare, Ryan says that if Republicans win control of Congress in November, it’s not realistic to think they can repeal Obamacare because Obama won’t sign a repeal bill. He believes opponents of Obamacare will have to wait until 2013, with the swearing in of a Republican president, to repeal the healthcare reform plan.
Ryan, 40, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for president or vice president, but he tells Newsmax he is not going to run for president in the near future.
He declares: “My head’s just not that big and are kids are just too small.”
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