RYAN: I don't think I am hearing enough from the president. What I want to hear from our commander in chief is that he has a strategy to finish ISIS off, to defeat ISIS. Let's not forget that there are reportedly thousands of terrorists with foreign passports. If we don't deal with this threat now, thoroughly and convincingly, it is going to come home to roost. And so, no, I don't think the president has given us the kind of strategy we need. That is number one. Number two, I think we should let the generals determine the strategy, I don't want to be an armchair general and tell you how this needs to be done, but I would reference the fact that General Dempsey did say to do this correctly that Syria is going to have to be a part of this equation.
REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, I do. Otherwise the humanitarian crisis will continue. Otherwise families in countries far away, on the other side of Mexico will be giving thousands of dollars to traffickers to take their children over the border and the humanitarian crisis will get worse. So I do believe we need to amend this law, which never intended for this to happen, to make sure that you can treat people in noncontiguous countries just like we do Mexicans and Canadians so that we can stop this crisis.
RYAN: First of all, these programs don't work with each other. In many ways, they end up being counterproductive, because poverty is a complicated problem and it needs to be customized. And secondly, we had basically a poverty management system with respect to the federal government. If you want to have a healthy economy and have real solutions, you have to have a healthy safety net. And a safety net needs to work to get people out of poverty. So my argument here is let's not focus on input, how much money you spend. Let's focus on outcomes. Are we actually getting people out of poverty?
RYAN: My argument is to focus on outcomes: Are we actually getting people out of poverty? And the best way to do that is to listen to people on the ground, the people who are fighting poverty person to person, and give them more flexibility in exchange for more accountability to actually get people out of poverty. We have learned good lessons about the right way to do this and not. And I would argue that we can customize the benefit to a person based on their particular needs which actually helps them get out of poverty long term. We've spend $800 billion every year on 92 different programs to fight poverty. Yet we have the highest poverty rates in a generation.
RYAN (On Tape): We don't want a dependency culture. Our concern in this country is with the idea that more and more able-bodied people are becoming dependent upon the government than upon themselves and their livelihoods.
Q: What you seem to be saying is that people have a problem with their own dependency here that government is only furthering.
RYAN: That's not my intent. My point is we don't want to have a poverty management system that simply perpetuates poverty. We want to get at the root cause of the poverty to get people out of poverty. The federal government's approach has ended up maintaining poverty, managing poverty. In many ways, it has disincentivized people to going to work. In some cases, you lose more in benefits if you go to work. We need to reemphasize getting people up & on their lives and helping them give them the tools to do that. That's the point
That would shift the federal government's anti-poverty role largely to one of vetting state programs to distribute aid, and they would have to give the poor a choice of providers. "There wouldn't just be a federal agency or a state agency," said Ryan. "Instead, they could choose from a list of certified providers. We're talking non-profits, or for-profits, or even community groups unique to your neighborhood."
There would be a time limit on assistance, and Ryan said the plan would need to show strong evidence of positive outcomes and poverty reduction, arguing such data is lacking in current programs.
Democrats and liberal policy groups bashed the plan before its release as a way to do away with programs that have formed the core of federal anti-poverty efforts since the 1960s.
RYAN: Well, we have had policies attached to the debt limit before. That's actually more the case than not. So that's not a new idea. What we don't like is this idea of continually rubber-stamping debt limit increases without acknowledging the problem that got us into debt in the first place. The challenge we have is this president has never proposed to ever balance the budget, let alone pay off the debt. So we'd like to look at what are those things we can do to take a step in the right direction, with jobs, the economy, getting this deficit under control, while we deal with the fact that our deficit is out of control.
RYAN: No, not at all. I think they have crony capitalism in Argentina, where you have real exploitation. That is not the free market. That's crony capitalism. And we're starting to see some crony capitalism here in America. What I'm excited about the pope's comments is he is inviting a debate. He's not settling the debate, he's inviting the debate. And he is asking lay Catholics to say how we would actually tackle these problems and bring the poor in, stop isolating the poor. And if you look at his comments very closely, he always talks about the welfare mentality.
Q: But you don't think he'd endorse your budget, do you?
RYAN: Of course not. He's a pope. Popes don't endorse budgets.
RYAN: It's not the number of executive orders, it's the scope of the executive orders. It's the fact that he is actually contradicting law like in the health care case, or proposing new laws without going through congress.
Q: So you think he's violating the constitution?
RYAN: We have an increasingly lawless presidency where he is actually doing the job of congress, writing new policies & new laws without going through congress. Presidents don't write laws, congress does. That's not his job.
Q: But if you think he's lawless, circumventing the constitution, are you going to move to impeach?
RYAN: No, I'm not. You have some court challenges going to the court this spring. But I think these executive orders are creating a dangerous trend.
RYAN: We don't know who's coming and going in this country. We don't have control of our border. We don't have control of interior enforcement. Here's the issue that all Republicans agree on--we don't trust the president to enforce the law. So if you actually look at the standards that the Republican leadership put out: first we have to secure the border, have interior enforcement, which is a worker verification system, a visa tracking program. Those things have to be in law, in practice and independently verified before the rest of the law can occur. So it's a security force first, non-amnesty approach.
RYAN: This is not one of those issues where it has some kind of a deadline behind it, like, say, a government shutdown, which forces us into a compromise we might not like to take. This is a "here are our standards; this is what we're willing to do." And we're still having a debate in our caucus about even that. But we don't think that we can allow this border to continue to be overrun. And if we can get security first, no amnesty, before anything happens, we think that's a good approach. This is not a trust but verify, this is a verify then trust approach.
Q: Can you put something on the president's desk that he can sign?
RYAN: I really don't know the answer to that question. It depends on whether we can do that, where it's security first, no amnesty, then we might be able to get somewhere.
RYAN: I think these groups are valuable. The way I look at it is this--they're part of our conservative family. I'd prefer to keep these conversations within our family. I see the Tea Party as indispensable, invaluable in helping keep the taxpayer in the game, keep Washington accountable. And when I look at, when we lost our majority in '06, we deserved to lose it then. They helped us get out ship righted again by being fiscally conservative. We've got 2/3 of the House conservatives voting for this. I think this is a step in the right direction. It's not as far as I want to go, but it's a step in the right direction.
RYAN: We're not busting sequester caps. In just the next 2 years, 70% of the sequester is intact.
Q: But $60 billion more is going to be spent.
RYAN: 92% of the sequester over the life of the sequester is intact. The Democrats came to this saying get rid of the entire sequester. And we've now got them to agree to 70% of it now and 92% of it exists over the term of the deal.
Q: So you say "we don't bust the sequester," but you let it leak. The sequester, a lot of people feel, has imposed real budget discipline. And the critics say you're going back to the days of spending more and taxing more.
RYAN: There's no taxes in this. There are some user fees.
RYAN: I'm worried because the Federal Reserve is going to start tapering, we call it. They're going to start going back to normalizing their policy. Interest rates have a tendency to rise under those kinds of situations. And that makes our fiscal situation even worse. There are two ways of tackling this fiscal problem. One, grow the economy, get people back to work, and solid through economic growth. Two, do this kind of comprehensive entitlement reform that we've been long advocating.
RYAN: This package has "pay-fors," meaning spending cuts to pay for [each spending item]. When they, at the 11th hour, asked for this unemployment extension, they offered nothing to pay for it, which would have blown a hole in our deficits. Also, a 13th extension of this emergency unemployment extension from the 2008 crisis, we have a lot of evidence showing that it will prolong unemployment. Our focus is getting people back to work. We want jobs. And we want pro-growth policies that help create jobs so we don't have people going on unemployment in the first place. One of the things we think this accomplishments by providing some certainty, by preventing the government shutdowns, is it can get the economy growing again. So, our focus is on job creation, not a 13th extension of an emergency benefit that was started in 2008.
RYAN: All Republicans want to repeal and replace ObamaCare. We're having a debate about the best strategy for achieving that goal. And with the government shutdown, we're talking about discretionary spending, just government agency budgets, but it doesn't affect entitlements. ObamaCare is an entitlement like Medicare and Social Security is, and so the entitlement carries on even under a government shutdown scenario. So it's just not that simple and easy. You know, rather than sort of swinging for the fences and trying to take this entire law out with discretionary spending, I think there are more effective ways of achieving that goal. We think that we can do better by delaying this law. We've already had votes to delay; Democrats have supported us in that. There's going to be a better strategy to actually achieve our goal of ultimately replacing ObamaCare.
RYAN: No, I do think we need to reauthorize and reform this program. A lot of us have learned much more about it since it was revealed. We do have to do more, I believe, to protect our liberties without sacrificing our national security. And I think that can be done. There was a vote to defund the entire program. I didn't support that vote, because I think the smarter way to go about it is rewrite the law.
Q: Are you convinced that the NSA is violating our privacy or sort of has the capability to do that?
RYAN: I think they have the capability. I can't speak to whether or not they are doing that, but there are more controls that we can put in place.
RYAN: I disagree that we should approach this issue based on what's right for us politically. We should approach this issue on what we think is the right thing to do. We have been listening to the American people. So what we're going to do is take a step-by-step approach to get immigration right, not a big massive bill. Number one, we don't have control of our border. And we need interior enforcement to know who's coming and going. And right now, people come to this country based on family relations, not based on skills. Most other countries have a legal immigration system that's good for their country, we should do the same. And when it comes to the undocumented, people who came here illegally, we want to give people a chance to get right with the law while not doing an amnesty. Pay fines, pay back taxes, get a background check, learn English, learn civics.
"The institution of marriage is an integral part of our civil society and its significance goes well beyond eligibility for benefits and similar considerations. Its future should not be left to a few overreaching judges or local officials to decide," Ryan said in a 2004 statement. "That's why I support this effort to amend our Constitution to protect marriage." He has described himself as a "big supporter" of Wisconsin's 2006 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. On the other hand, he did vote for the Employment Non-discrimination Act in 2007. Given how conservative he is now he could shift a bit and still be to the right of Rubio and Paul.
RYAN: Well, look, our budget is a vision document, encapsulating what we think is the right way to go-- fundamental tax reform, patient-centered health care replacing ObamaCare, getting our budget balanced. We've been criticized for repealing ObamaCare in our budget. It's not as if we woke up the day after the election and said let's change our principles.
Q: But the votes are simply not there to repeal ObamaCare. And if somehow or another Congress did repeal it, the president would almost certainly veto it, and there are certainly not enough votes for a veto override. So aren't you just kind of wasting time by saying repealing ObamaCare is how you really save money?
RYAN: Two points: #1, that just goes to show that ObamaCare is a massive budget buster. And #2, I really believe it's going to destroy the health care system in America.
RYAN: What we propose is flexible grants that go back to the states. We get rid of the bureaucracy in Washington. We think the ObamaCare expansion of Medicare is reckless. We are pushing 20 million people, into a program that's failing. More and more doctors and hospitals don't even take the program. And we want to reform Medicaid by giving states the ability to customize the Medicaid program.
Q: Can you honestly say by turning Medicaid into a block grant and giving it to the states that you can cut $770 billion out of that program, over the next 10 years, and that's going to have no impact on legitimate recipients?
RYAN: Yes. These are increases that have not come yet. By repealing ObamaCare, and the Medicaid expansions which haven't occurred yet, we are basically preventing an explosion of a program that is already failing. Prevent that growth from going because it's not going to work
RYAN: Well, first of all, it's not a voucher. It's premium support. Those are very different. A voucher is you go to your mailbox, you get a check and you go buy something. That's not what we are saying. We are saying, let's convert Medicare into a system that works like the one I have as a congressman, as federal employees. You have a list of guaranteed coverage options, including traditional Medicare. Medicare subsidizes your plan based on who you are, total subsidy for the poor and the sick, less of a subsidy for wealthy seniors. Doing it this way, harnessing the power of competition, is the best way to save Medicare for future generations. This guarantees that Medicare does not change for people in or near retirement. The problem is, Medicare is going broke.
RYAN: Not really. We always got close to balancing the budget, but, not quite there. We don't have to do much simply because the new CBO baseline makes it easier, because the new baseline reflects the fiscal cliff, which is higher revenues and lower spending, making it easier to balance. We ask all federal employees to have their pension contributions like those in the private sector. We think we owe the American people a balanced budget.
Q: You include the $600 billion in tax increases, that came from raising rates in the fiscal cliff debate. You also include $716 billion in Medicare cuts through ObamaCare that you opposed. Is it fair to say at least those parts of the president's policies make it easier to balance the budget?
RYAN: It is fair to say that. What we also say is, end the raid of Medicare from ObamaCare. And we don't want to refight the fiscal cliff.
RYAN: Don't forget it's the president that proposed the sequester and House Republicans twice passed legislation replacing the sequester with smarter cuts.
Q: I've heard this talking point for Republicans for a long time: "This was the president's idea" and on and on, but let's look at your own words in August 2011: "What conservatives like me have been fighting for, for years are statutory caps on spending, literally legal caps in law that says government agencies cannot spend over a set amount of money and if they breach that amount across the board sequester comes in to cut that spending. We got that into law." You were certainly suggesting it was a good idea.
RYAN: Those are the budget caps on discretionary spending. We want those. Everybody wants budget caps. The sequester now is backing up the super committee, to come up with $1.2 trillion in savings.
RYAN: Yes, absolutely, because we think there's a way to do this through earned legalization without rewarding people for having come in with undocumented status, illegally. We don't want to give them an advantage over those who came here legally and we think there's a way to do this while still respecting the rule of law. It's clear that what the president is talking about does not do that. I have a long record of immigration reform. I'm not a Johnny-come-lately on this issue. We've always believed that there is a way of doing this while respecting the rule of law, that's the delicate balance that needs to be achieved for this to be bipartisan and the president on most of these issues and this one now, like the others, seems to be looking for a partisan advantage and not bringing the parties together.
(Videotape) OBAMA: The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Social Security, these things do not make us a nation of takers.
RYAN: Right now, according to the tax foundation, between 60% and 70% of Americans get more federal benefits than they pay in taxes. So we're getting toward a society where we have a net majority of takers versus makers. (End videotape)
Q: Still true?
RYAN: We don't want a dependency culture; we want a safety net. When I cite that statistic, the point is, people want the American Dream. They want lives of opportunity. We want to make sure that we don't continue that trend. No one is suggesting that Medicare and Social Security makes you a taker.
Q: But you're citing figures that include entitlements like Medicare and Social Security.
RYAN: When these statistics get cited, it leads you to think that America is gone, that we're becoming too much of a dependent culture. And my point is, that's not the whole picture.
RYAN: That's right.
Q: What do you specifically require?
RYAN: Our goal is to get cuts and reforms that put us on a path to balancing the budget within a decade. But literally the Senate hasn't budgeted in four years. We need to have a kind of debate in this country about how we're going to make these choices
Q: A lot of the Democrats and even the White House say they're willing to do tax reform where there could be additional revenue. Are you saying that you're opposed to any additional revenue that could come from tax reform?
RYAN: Are we for more revenues? No, we're not.
Q: Even if it comes from tax reform?
RYAN: If you keep raising revenues, you're not going to get decent tax reform. If you keep chasing higher spending with higher revenues, as they're calling for, you're going to actually hurt economic growth. You'll never catch up.
The above quotations are from Sunday Political Talk Show interviews during 2013-2015, interviewing presidential hopefuls for 2016.
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