Paul Ryan: Americans deserve better than a debt crisis
On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Fox News
Greta Van Susteren: Some harsh words - at least that’s what I see quoted – that you have for the Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee about the fact they are not bringing their budget to the floor, such terms as an “embarrassing spectacle”. What went on?
Congressman Ryan: It is. We have a law that says you have to pass a budget every April. They haven't followed the law for 3 years now.
Greta Van Susteren: If I get caught speeding, I get into trouble and that’s a law.
Congressman Ryan: But there aren’t any consequences to this particular law. We believe in the rule of law. More importantly, we have a moral obligation. A debt crisis is coming to this country that means you need to pass a budget to prevent it from happening. If you are not going to budget, you are not going to prevent it from happening. And unfortunately our friends in the Senate decided they don't want to go on record and take any tough political votes and therefore, they are not going to budget again. I feel sorry for Kent Conrad who tried but he gave us a budget that had $2.6 trillion in new taxes and no spending cuts and he couldn't even get that marked up in Committee.
Greta Van Susteren: You say you feel sorry for him. I know all Members of Congress and the house work hard but the reason why he didn't get that markup done - he's the Chairman - is because he was getting political pressure, I understand from the leadership. I don't consider that try. He has the power and the authority. I don't know if your budget is a good one or not but we’re not getting one out of the Senate. But in order to consider yours and balance it against the Senate, the Senate has to produce one so trying is not good enough.
Congressman Ryan: I agree, because America deserves better. America does not deserve a debt crisis. This is the most predictable crisis we have ever had. In 2008, when we had the economic crisis, that one caught us by surprise. What if your President, your Congressman and your Senator knew about it ahead of time, knew when it was coming, knew what was going to happen, knew how it stop it and had time to stop it but didn’t do so because it wasn't good politics -- what would you think of that person? That’s what we’re basically doing right now.
We know a debt crisis is coming, just like what’s going on in Europe. We know approximately when it's happening, why it's happening and what to do to prevent it from happening – and you have to pass a budget to stop that, which is what we’re doing.
And we don't have a willing partner in the White House or the Senate to do that. So yes, that’s why we’re frustrated. That’s why we need new leadership. And that is why we are going to the country with a referendum on fixing this problem and letting the country decide in November, what do you want?
Do you want a country that prevents this is debt crisis and gets back to prosperity, an opportunity society with a safety net? Or do you want to go down this path we are on - which is a debt crisis where our children have an inferior standard of living than the one we have? That’s where we’re heading.
Greta Van Susteren: If Senator Conrad were here and I doubt he will show up because I have been very harsh about the fact he hasn’t produced a budget – and he may produce a better one than yours, but he’s not producing it. If he were here and I said: Put one on the table. What would his response be?
Congressman Ryan: He would say the Budget Control Act is a budget. Obviously, it's not, in every way, whether it's technical or in real life. It caps the growth on discretionary spending, calls for across-the-board cuts, which are not near the amount you need to solve a debt crisis. It doesn't even come close to reaching the standard of any budget that prevents a debt crisis and it was not a substitute.
Greta Van Susteren: Are you saying it's a lousy budget?
Congressman Ryan: No, it's a small step in the right direction.
Greta Van Susteren: Why isn't that budget? Why does Senator Conrad think that's a budget and you don’t think that’s a budget?
Congressman Ryan: It doesn't make the choices. It doesn’t prioritize spending. It doesn't say here's how you fix our entitlements programs that are going bankrupt, like Medicare and Medicaid. It actually isn’t a budget; it is technically not even a budget. It doesn't say here’s how you prioritize spending at this level or that level. It doesn’t do that
It just says if Congress doesn't fix the problem then across-the-board cuts happen. It says on 39% of our government - discretionary and government agency spending - is set at these levels. but the rest of the government, which is running on auto pilot and which is driving the debt to a catastrophic levels, it doesn’t deal with those things
Greta Van Susteren: What worries me about the Budget Control Act is that all the cuts that go into effect occur after the election, deliberately by the Republicans, Democrats, anybody who voted for it and that’s so that we, the voters, don't take it out on them.
Congressman Ryan: Not in the House. In our budget we replace that by saying here is specifically how we would solve this problem. That’s what we passed.
Greta Van Susteren: Do you agree that the Budget Control Act does those big cuts?
Congressman Ryan: Yes. But those cuts are not near the amount you need to prevent a debt crisis in the first place. We are saying here's how we will replace them. We are going to vote on a bill in three weeks in the House that says here's specifically how we replace those across-the-board cuts. We are actually marking up and passing legislation in plain sight, with the public in full view, on how we will prioritize spending to prevent a debt crisis.
Greta Van Susteren: Well I don’t think anyone is going criticize you for not producing a budget. They may not like your budget but you have done your legal obligation and now we are waiting for the senate. Don’t hold your breath!
Congressman Ryan: It’s been over a thousand days already.
Greta Van Susteren: The Washington Examiner quotes you today as saying and this may be incorrect quote that President Obama lies to distract the nation.
Congressman Ryan: I didn’t say lie, I said he distorts our record to distract the nation. I think he is trying to divide the country, to distract the country from his failed record and failed policies. He can't run on his record, it’s not a good one -- look at gas prices, look at poverty rates, look at the economy.
He has not changed his tune, he has moved farther to the left. He hasn't moderated his positions or his philosophy so his only choice left - which we see from all these speeches that he’s giving in campaign mode - is to divide the country in order to distract the country. That’s what I am saying. I’m not saying he’s lying, I’m saying he is dramatically distorting. If you look at the speeches he is giving about our budget, he is making up these assumptions and not a single statistic is accurate, in order to distort, in order to divide, and then distract the country.
Greta Van Susteren: The Catholic Bishops are a little bit unhappy with you. They don't like the cuts in your budget to food stamps as well as cuts in tax credits for parents of illegal children.
Congressman Ryan: Well, we’ve long had a policy on other benefits that they don't go towards people who are here illegally. We are simply applying, like we do with welfare, over to the tax credit. Food stamps have quadrupled. We are saying: let's bring them to pre-recession levels starting in 2016, hardly a Draconian cut. This is just some of the Bishops and I welcome this dialogue. I think it's fine. Good people of good will can have a disagreement over how to prioritize spending. But in a budget where we are growing 3% a year versus the President's 4.5% a year, it’s hardly Draconian.
Greta Van Susteren: How did we get to the point of 46 million people on food stamps? It does reflect on our nation as a whole that’s it gotten to this point -- what happened?
Congressman Ryan: We just had a hearing on this. About 40% of the rise in food stamps was because of the recession but another 160% of the rise in food stamps was because of legislation that the “Pelosi Congress” passed with the President in office, in the last congress – with Pelosi, Reid and Obama – when they passed a massive expansion in the food stamp program which led to its quadrupling.
Greta Van Susteren: Congressman, nice to see you. Thank you for joining us.