It was certain to attract this sort of response, but Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan released his budget plan going forward that includes some sweeping changes to federal expenditures, including entitlement spending.
One of those criticisms came from Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman New York Rep. Steve Israel. On Tuesday, immediately following Ryan’s release, Israel called it a “privatization scheme” and blasted it for addressing subsidies to oil companies.
However, in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday, Ryan fired back, admitting he saw this coming and called such criticisms “distortions and demagogueries.” Ryan specifically called out Israel for his political opportunism.
“Steve Israel is the head of the Democratic campaign committee,” Ryan said. “He’s in charge of their reelection effort, of the political machine, and here’s the deal –is this a political weapon? Of course it is. But you have to say things like that, which are distortions and demagogueries, no two ways about it, in order to score these kinds of political points.”
Ryan explained how the worst experience of his years in Congress was during the financial collapse of 2008 and the extraordinary measures the federal government had to take through the passage of TARP, which he compared to the pending fiscal crisis if the federal government remains on its current track. But he said fearing the political backlash and not acting would be the wrong thing to do.
“Let me ask it this way – what if your congressman and your president knew that was coming?” Ryan said. “Remember, this caused people to use trillions in wealth, millions of jobs were lost – we’re still trying to recover from it. But what if your representative in Congress and your president saw it coming, knew why it was coming, knew what the cause of it was, knew in enough time to prevent it from happening and knew what he had to do to prevent it from happening, but chose not to do so because he was worried about politics? Because he was worried about the press release that was going to come from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee? What would you think of him? I mean think about this – this is wrong.”
Ryan said he thought the American people were ready for the conversation, regardless of the political backlash.
“This is the most predictable economic crisis we’ve ever had in this country,” he said. “We owe it to our countrymen – the men and women in this country to fix this problem while it’s still fixable,” he said. “And so shame on people who want to demagogue and politicize this. But I think this country is better than that. And I personally believe from representing a district that went for Clinton, Gore, Dukakis and Obama that Americans are ready for honest talk. They’re ready to be spoken to like adults. They’re ready for fact-based conversations without budget gimmicks, accounting tricks and all of the rest, to about what is really needed to save this country. And what this plan shows you is that this country can still be saved. It is the idea that this country can still be preserved. And I personally believe the country is ready for that, no matter what.”