HH: We do have a budget. At least the House Republicans have a budget. The chairman of the Budget Committee, Congressman Paul Ryan, laid it out today. He joins me now. Mr. Chairman, welcome back, it’s always fun to talk to you.
PR: Hey, you, too, Hugh, and I never thought I would hear my budget mentioned in the same sentence with the pope, so this is new for me, a new high, thanks.
HH: All right, I’ve got to begin with, I was with your former colleague, my dean earlier today, Dean Tom Campbell of Chapman Law School, and I said I’ve got my question for the Congressman, because he’s a budget wonk like you are.
PR: Yeah, he was on the budget committee with me. He’s one of our senior members, and he was just at my press conference with me.
HH: Yeah, he’s an extraordinarily talented budget wonk, but I said to him, and I want to get your answer to this, I know you guys are well-intentioned, but the America public increasingly are saying hey, this thing’s working out just fine. We print a trillion dollars of hot money every year, and the market’s going up, and unemployment’s finally down below what President Obama inherited after four-plus years. Why even care, Congressman, because your budget’s getting ripped by the left. So my first question is why should anyone care if we’re running trillion dollar deficits?
PR: You know, I think we’re at the early curve of the fatal conceit, right? This is the early part, where it’s nothing but good stuff – a lot of promised, a lot of money printing and money creation, but the hangover has not affected yet. It hasn’t hit us yet. And if you want to take a look at what something looks like when you go down this path, look at Europe. Look at the 50% unemployment rate in Greece and Spain. Look at the 20% unemployment rate south Europe-wide. Look at the safety net that’s being eviscerated in Europe, the pensions that are being cut, the unemployment rate. Look at the safety net that’s being eviscerated for the poor and sick in Europe. Look at the recession that they’re in. That’s what happens to countries after the debt crisis has hit them. And then, if you want to take a look at the worst of it all, if the best case is for the central bank to print more money to buy themselves out of the problem, then you debase your currency. And if we debase our currency, which I would argue we’re on the path to doing, then you wipe out the value of your money. You wipe out the middle class in a country. You wipe out the value of all of your savings. And your standard of living goes down by the amount at which your currency is debased. That is what happens when you go down this path farther. That is what we’re trying to prevent from happening. Balancing the budget is not just an arithmetic thing. It is the means to an end which is a better economy, a growing economy, more opportunity, helping people, getting the government to live within its means, giving your kids a debt free country. Those are the things we accomplish with this. And we want to take our fiscal policy, our borrowing off of its collision course with our monetary policy, our money printing, so that we can get back to sound money, low taxes, more freedom, real economic growth, real job creation, and a brighter future for people, and upward mobility for people who have not seen it yet.
HH: Now Chairman Ryan, from Nobel economist and NewYork Times columnist, Paul Krugman, to Ezra Klein at the Wonkblog at the Washington Post, all the people on the left are saying hey, we’ve got this thing licked. The last thing you want to do right now is withdraw spending. We will cause, we’ll trigger the very recession that will bring about the confidence crisis that you’re worried about.
PR: Well, so I have three certainties in my life – death, taxes and liberal attacks from Paul Krugman.
PR: It’s something I’ve come to realize. Keynesians, which is what Krugman would call himself, believe in just, in the constant pumping of the prime, and just spending more money to grow the economy. They believe in this, that if you spend more money, it produces more than a dollar’s worth of economic growth for every dollar you spend. Well, obviously, that’s not true, and there have been lots of studies debunking that. But more importantly, the more you rack up these deficits, the bigger your debt gets, the more out of control it gets. And if we have an interest rate problem, which is more likely the more borrowing you have, interest just balloons, and we literally lose control of our fiscal situation. We would add about $400 billion dollars in interest spending a year today, if interest rates just go back to where they were before the crisis. So what we realize is we’re in this narrowing window of opportunity to get our fiscal house in order, to get our budget balanced, to get pro-growth economics. But if we keep the sugar high economics, which is what the people you mentioned are talking about, we’ll just have a harder fall at the end of the day, and everybody will get hurt. That’s what we want to do. We want to prevent people from getting hurt, we want real economic growth, and by the way, I would argue, it’s just not really working out real well right now. Our economy is barely limping along, we have 46 million people in poverty, the highest poverty rates in a generation, more and more people are giving up on the American idea, more and more people don’t think the country is going to be better off in the future when they hand it over to their kids. And we have put out a budget to balance the budget, to reform the tax code, to open up our energy so we can be energy independent, to save Medicare from bankruptcy, to make sure that our kids get a debt free future and a faster economy today. That’s what we’re producing today. If you want to go see it for yourself, go to http://budget.house.gov.
HH: Now Jonathan Weisman at the New York Times provides this two paragraph description of the Ryan budget. House Republicans, led by Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, laid out a tax and spending plan that would cut spending by $4.6 trillion through 2023, in large part by rolling back many of the President’s signature legislative accomplishments. It would repeal the health care overhaul of 2009, eliminate the subsidized insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion that make up the core of the law, and turn Medicare into a system of private insurance plans financed by federal vouchers. The Republican proposal would also do away with Wall Street regulatory laws that Mr. Obama championed and cancelled the financing, as the administration saw it, for a high speed rail network. Fair or unfair?
PR: No, that’s very accurate. I wouldn’t call them…vouchers is unfair. Premium support, which is what federal employees and members of Congress have for their health care, it’s how Medicare Part D works today. It’s not a voucher program. It’s you pick the health care plan that meets your needs, that’s guaranteed coverage options by Medicare, and Medicare subsidizes your premiums. It’s the only bipartisan solution that’s out there on how to save and strengthen Medicare, versus Obamacare’s fifteen person panel, which will be in charge of rationing and regulating Medicare. We think that’s a far better way to go. Other than that, that’s accurate.
HH: Okay, well, then they would say, now wait a minute, we just held an election…
HH: And you, Mr. Chairman, were on the ticket, and you lost and he won. And I’m still moaning and groaning about it, but you lost and he won.
HH: And therefore, how dare you propose repealing his agenda?
PR: I know (laughing). I get a kick out of this. That came up in our press conference today, and I think I saw Weisman there, which is okay, so we didn’t win the election, and we did campaign on repealing of Obamacare, and now that we’re budgeting, shouldn’t we just throw in with Obamacare and just roll over and say okay, let’s keep the law? No. Since when are you supposed to turn in your principles after an election, whether you won it or lost it? I mean, I just personally don’t understand that criticism. Why on Earth would we sacrifice and turn in our deeply held principles just because we had an election that, you know, I won one election and a I lost one. I lost one with Mitt on the ticket, I won my House reelection. So I, and John Campbell, and our constituents sent us back. We have divided government. We think Obamacare is a terrible law. We think this law, which has two years to go to be implemented, is going to prove much, much more unpopular as it rolls out. As the gory details unfold in front of the country, as they see themselves losing their employer-sponsored health insurance, Medicare patients losing access to care, as they see the medical device tax making it more expensive to get breakthrough drugs, we think this law is going to be really unpopular in the eyes of the county. And we think it is very well within our right as Republicans in the majority to offer a budget that says let’s get rid of this law and replace it with patient-centered health care, not government-run health care. I really don’t think people should expect anything less of us. I’d be surprised…let me put it this way. If I put out a budget that says let’s keep Obamacare and fund it, what would you say then?
HH: Yeah, I’d say retire.
PR: Well, exactly. So what’s the point of electing a Republican then?
HH: I’m going to go finish micro. I wrote a column for the Washington Examiner on Monday about this medical device tax, 2.3%. It’s killing jobs. Like on a daily basis, it’s killing jobs.
HH: Is there any way to get rid of that prior to the avalanche of bad news you’re talking about? Could it be done via the CR? Could it get done?
PR: Well, it can’t be done in the CR, and that’s not a, whether we want it to or not, it’s a procedure thing. It’s a matter bill in a spending bill. But we’re doing tax reform this year in the House, and we’re
going to pass tax reform that says here’s how you replace this really ugly tax code we have, medical device tax and all the rest, with a better tax system, with lower rates and a broader tax base. Fewer loopholes in exchange for lower rates, and we’ll show the country a better tax system that gets us pro-growth economics, that gets the economy going, that makes American businesses more competitive, that lets families keep more of what they earn, and that’s fairer. And that includes getting rid of some of these ugly taxes. It’s through tax legislation that you can get rid of things like this, and we’ll see at the end of the day whether we can do it or not, I mean, we can in the House, whether we can get it into law or not.
HH: Chairman Paul Ryan of the House Budget Committee, thanks for joining us. The budget, of course, at http://budget.house.gov? Have I got that right?
End of interview.