On Monday, The Daily Caller’s Jon Ward interviewed Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican and the ranking member on the House Budget Committee. An edited transcript of the interview is below.
The DC: I asked Orszag today about your plan. He went to great length actually, talking about it, saying basically that it puts more risk on individuals then on the government, which is a pretty honest assessment, I think.
PR: It is. Absolutely. And he seems to emphasize that it lowers per capita spending of Medicare. Well, you know, duh, we have to. Any entitlement reform plan will do that, because the current spending path is totally unsustainable. That’s the whole gist of the $38 trillion unfunded liability that Medicare presents.
DC: Is the presupposition in your plan though that if you move Medicare recipients into the private sector that that is going to drive down costs? … How does that work exactly?
PR: Yes, so here’s the – the presupposition is where you should go in this debate, or the premise. The premise is, who is going to be in charge of health care in the future: government or people? It’s the key premise. If we’re going to make Medicare solvent by having government take over as a monopoly then it must, by definition, deeply and systematically ration health care. That’s a long way to go, from my perspective. And so what I was suggesting is let’s not push the market out of health care.
Let’s bring market forces into health care, and let’s make the nucleus of this issue the patient and doctor, not the government. Let’s give support to people to move freely within health care, with their dollars, so that health care providers compete against each other for their business. So, we’ve applied choice and competition in every other section of the U.S. economy, and it worked to bring down costs and improve quality. Health care is no different, but we have not put those things in place with health care. It’s either that, which I’m proposing, which also gives more support to lower income and sicker people than to higher income individuals – so it preserves a safety net.
It’s either do that, or have the government deeply ration care to individuals and deprive patients from being in control of their own destiny and their own health care. So, those are really the two paths before us. The point I am trying to make is the status quo is totally unsustainable, and so, which way do you want to go? That’s the decision Americans are going to have to start making.
DC: Do you feel like the fallout from the Massachusetts race – with health care falling apart, Democrats looking the possibility of a Republican House majority in the eye, and then calling on the Republicans for ideas – do you think that this has kind of thrust you to the forefront in a way that you may not have expected a month ago? I mean you had these ideas, but now they are getting a lot more attention.
PR: Yeah, well, you know, I obviously didn’t expect to get this kind of attention. I think it just sort of occurred partly because of the Q&A thing we had with Obama. But, I am very happy about it, because the reason I am happy about it is because they can no longer say the Republican Party has no ideas. And now we are getting on to debating, you know, the merit of our different approaches, and that is a debate I relish.
DC: Let me ask you about New Hampshire. Why are you going to New Hampshire?
PR: Because John Sununu asked me to. I’m definitely not running for president. You can say that with large caps. But the reason I’m doing it is because a) John is a friend of mine who asked me to come, but b) in Wisconsin, we really don’t get to choose the nominee. It’s always, it’s usually done by the time it comes to us. And so, Republicans in New Hampshire have a disproportionate and unique opportunity to select the next nominee of our party, and I want, if I have the opportunity, to encourage them to make sure that they help select a nominee who understands just where this country is in this moment of time, and what it’s going to take to the restore the American idea and reapply the founding principles and get the fiscal crisis that we’re in, then I’m going to take that opportunity.
DC: Do you have somebody in mind?
PR: No, I don’t. That’s the problem.
DC: Okay. Alright, okay. Real quick—budget issues over the next couple of years. People are up in arms about the high deficits and spending over the next few years, like now until 2015. I see a little bit of a difference in your plan in terms of the percentage of GDP the deficit is. It’s a little bit lower than the government’s plan but I still see it going pretty high, and actually your plan has debt being a 100 percent of GDP in, like, 2040. So—
PR: As opposed to 400 percent under the current trajectory.
PR: At that time.
DC: Do you think there’s any way out of this though without tax increases?
PR: I do, and that’s what my road map proves. You can do it without tax increases. Now, that is a static model that shows you. I believe if you put the kinds of things in place that I am putting in place, and the kind of tax reform I am putting in place, then you’ll improve economic growth, and that that debt will be farther, much farther below 100 percent of GDP, which is a peak in my plan. But that’s using static modeling which is, you know, in my opinion, underestimating the economic benefit that my tax reform and debt reduction will bring.
You got to remember the boomers are coming. We’re not prepared for them and they will increase the debt. The question is whether it will be temporary or permanent. And what I’m showing is here’s a way to process and absorb the baby boom addition, and literally pay off our debt within the budget window, which in these things they use a 75 year window. That’s how the scoring is done. And, so, I’m showing you literally how we can process the baby boom generation without bankrupting the country and without sending our debt to catastrophic levels. What matters most for the credit markets is if we’re putting a plan in place that shows we’re getting it under control and that we’re literally going to pay it off. The entire budget, and I am talking not just deficit but debt, goes into surplus with my plan over time.
DC: Last question. What, if you had to say what you want the administration to do differently in their budget over the next few years, what would it be? And I’m not talking long term—
PR: Everything. Don’t punt entitlement reforms to a commission that’s stacked from a partisan advantage. Don’t crank up discretionary spending like they are. Bring spending- don’t even freeze, but cut, then freeze spending. Do entitlement reform and tax reform.
DC: What would you cut?
PR: That’s what I would do. And going in opposite direction in every one of those categories.
DC: I guess I’m asking you what would you cut, you know? Right now.
PR: Let me wait until I put my budget alternative out there. I got to wait for CBO’s rescore of the president’s budget. I’ll be bringing a detailed budget to the floor as an alternative when [Budget Chairman John] Spratt announces the time to do that and you’ll see. First of all, I would go back to the ’07 baseline. I would take back all these massive spending increases that Congress has pumped up the last few years, so you know, across the board. But, I will put out a detailed budget plan you know when it’s time to write a budget resolution. You will see our answer to that.
DC: About when will that be?
PR: You know, sometime in March. It’s up to Spratt. He makes that call, so it’s whenever they decide.
DC: So you don’t feel like it’s just the long-term structural stuff. You actually feel like the stuff they’re spending money on right now…
PR: Absolutely. I’m not a Keynesian who believes the road to prosperity and job creation is borrow and spend more money. I believe we need to cut spending – not just freeze spending, cut spending – and keep taxes low, so we can let people keep more of their own money, get this deficit and debt down, and grow our economy through the private sector, not through government.
DC: All right, well I look forward to hearing about those cuts.