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Paul Ryan on Meet the Press: Leadership Needed to Save Medicare, Lift Debt Burden, Grow Economy

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Washington, May 22, 2011 | comments
Earlier this morning on NBC’s Meet the Press, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan called on policymakers to demonstrate honest leadership in addressing our nation’s greatest economic and fiscal challenges.
 
Appearing on the program from his home state of Wisconsin, Ryan pushed back against those playing politics with the health security of America’s seniors.  Instead of offering false attacks and empty promises, Ryan made the case for honest leadership and real reform.  Ryan stated:  “Here in Wisconsin, people are ready for answers. They want leadership. The Senate Democrats still haven’t even proposed a budget – they haven’t passed a budget for 753 days.  We House Republicans have put out a plan to fix this problem, save Medicare, and in fact pay off the debt over time. We’ve seen nothing like that from the President and Senate Democrats.”

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Highlights:
 
  • Ryan challenged those who take issue with the House Republicans’ proposed solutions yet lack any viable alternative. Ryan stated: “I have no problems with somebody who is offering alternative solutions. I have problems with people who aren’t offering any solutions and are just playing politics.”
  • To those unwilling to engage on this issue, Ryan made clear: “You cannot ever fully balance the budget and pay off the debt unless you address the drivers of the debt. The drivers of our debt are our health care entitlements. We need a leader who is willing to address this. We don’t have that leader in the White House right now.  We don’t have those leaders running the Senate right now.”

  • Ryan clarified the real choice on Medicare: “Let’s be clear about what we’re proposing here – this is as sensible and gradual as it gets. We’re saying no changes for Medicare for people at or above the age of 55. In order to keep the promise to current seniors who have already retired and organized their lives around this program, you have to reform it for the next generation. The way in which we propose to reform it for the next generation – in keeping with Bill Clinton’s bipartisan commission to reform Medicare – is an idea that’s been around for a long time called premium support: guaranteed coverage options for Medicare, where the government subsidizes the poor and the sick a whole lot more than the wealthy, and people get to choose. We’re saying: do not affect current seniors, give future seniors the ability to deny business to inefficient providers. By contrast, the President’s plan is to give government the power to deny care to seniors by empowering a panel of 15 unelected bureaucrats to put price controls and rationing in place for current seniors.”

  • To those afraid of the politics of solving problems, Ryan stated: “Of course politicians are scared of entitlement reform because every time you put entitlement reform out there, the other party uses it as a political weapon against you. Look, both parties have done this. But here’s the problem David: if we don’t get serious about these issues, if we don’t get serious about the drivers of our debt, we’re going to have a debt crisis. The irony of this all is if we don’t fix these programs, people who rely on these benefits are going to be hurt the worst and cut the first in debt crisis. We’re saying if we fix this now, we can keep the current promise to current seniors and people ten years away from retiring. If we allow politics to get the best of us and if we allow the demagoguery to sink in and do nothing, then we will have a debt crisis, then current seniors will get hurt. So who’s being rational and responsible here? Look here in Wisconsin, people are ready for answers. They want leadership. The Senate Democrats still haven’t even proposed a budget – they haven’t passed a budget for 753 days. We House Republicans have put out a plan to fix this problem, save Medicare, and in fact pay off the debt over time. We’ve seen nothing of the like from the President and Senate Democrats.”

  • In response to David Gregory’s question on political polling on problem solving, Ryan argued: “I’m not a pundit; I’m a policymaker... If people are describing this accurately in polls, it is far more popular. More importantly, leaders are elected to lead. I don’t consult polls to tell me what my principles are or what our policies should be. Leaders change the polls. We are not seeing this kind of leadership from the President of the United States. The Senate Democrats still haven’t even proposed a budget – they haven’t passed a budget for 753 days and we have a budget crisis. We need to change the polls... I just did 19 town hall meetings in a district I work for that went for Obama, Gore, Clinton and Dukakis. Those I serve are hungry for solutions. I truly believe that the people are way ahead of the political class. And I think they will reward a leader that actually steps up to the plate and actually fixes these problems no matter how much demagoguery, no matter how much distortion, no matter how much the other political party tries to scare seniors in the next election. I just don’t think they’re going to buy it this year.”

  • While the President and his party continue to engage in false attacks, Ryan reiterated the facts on Medicare: “Here's what we propose: If you're under 55 when you become Medicare eligible, you get to pick among a list of guaranteed coverage options provided by and regulated by Medicare. We don't subsidize the wealthy nearly as much as middle income. And we subsidizes the poor and the sick a whole lot more than everybody else. We think that's a smart way to go. Choice and competition: giving the senior the power to deny business to inefficient providers.The alternative to this, David, is a rationing scheme: 15 bureaucrats the President's going to appoint next year on his panel to ration Medicare spending. We don't think we should give the government the power to ration Medicare to seniors.  We want to give future seniors the ability to make choices. And we want to subsidize people who are middle income and the lower income and sick more than we subsidize the wealthy. And doing it this way saves Medicare not only for the current generation with no disruptions, but for the next generation. And it helps us pay off our national debt.  These are the kinds of issues we've got to tackle if we're going to avert a debt crisis.

  • On the question of negotiating different approaches on how best to save Medicare, Ryan responded: “Of course. Absolutely. Of course we would. This is the legislative process. But let’s be clear: we are the only ones who have put out a plan to fix this problem We have nothing – nothing – from the President or from the Senate Democrats that comes close to averting a debt crisis and fixing our problem. House Republicans have put out a plan that cuts $6.2 trillion over the next ten years to get this economy growing, to save our safety net, to guarantee health and retirement security, and pay off our debt. We’re offering details, we have no partners on the other side of aisle offering anything but misleading scare tactics... We’ve got to get to a serious conversation about what it takes to fix the fiscal problems in this country. If we don’t tackle these problems now while we have time, they are going to tackle us. We need to preempt and prevent a debt crisis. We propose to do that on our terms and prevent people currently retired and near retirement to have severe disruptions in their lives.”

  • Finally, Ryan emphasized the irresponsibility from those demanding Washington accelerate its borrowing binge. On the debt limit, Ryan stated: "Our position is really simple: for every dollar the President wants to raise the debt limit we’re saying let’s cut more than a dollar’s worth of spending. We’ve laid out $6.2 trillion in spending cuts. So we can show the President plenty of ways to cut more than a dollar’s worth of spending. It is very important for the credit markets, for our economy to show that we are going to get this situation under control, that we’re going to get our debt stabilized and spending under control as we deal with this debt limit. Nobody wants default to happen, but at the same time we don’t want to rubber stamp a debt limit increase that shows we’re not getting our situation under control.”

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