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  • VIDEO: Rep. Paul Ryan on Saving the American Idea

    In a speech today at The Heritage Foundation, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) spoke about Saving the American Idea. The full text transcript of his remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

    “Saving the American Idea: Rejecting Fear, Envy and the Politics of Division”

    Thank you so much, Ed, for that kind introduction.

    We’re here today to explore the American Idea, and I can’t think of a better venue for this topic. The mission of the Heritage Foundation is to promote the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.

    These are the principles that define the American Idea. And this mission has never been timelier, because these principles are very much under threat from policies here in Washington.

    The American Idea belongs to all of us – inherited from our nation’s Founders, preserved by the countless sacrifices of our veterans, and advanced by visionary leaders, past and present.

    What makes America exceptional – what gives life to the American Idea – is our dedication to the self-evident truth that we are all created equal, giving us equal rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And that means opportunity.

    The perfection of our union, especially our commitment to equality of opportunity, has been a story of constant striving to live up to our Founding principles. This is what Abraham Lincoln meant when he said, “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free – honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve.”

    This commitment to liberty and equality is something we take for granted during times of prosperity, when a growing economic pie gives all Americans the opportunity to pursue their dreams, to provide brighter futures for their kids, or maybe just to meet their families’ needs.

    These are tough times. We know all too well that too many Americans are hurting today. And these hardships have reopened our longstanding national debate over what it means to be an exceptional nation. Have those periods of unprecedented prosperity in America’s past been the product of our Founding principles?

    Or, as some would argue, have we made it this far only in spite of our outdated values? Are we still an exceptional nation? Should we even seek to be unique? Or should we become more like the rest of the world – more bureaucratic, less hopeful, and less free?

    The American Idea is not tried in times of prosperity. Instead, it is tested when times are tough: when the pie is shrinking, when businesses are closing, and when workers are losing their jobs.

    Those are the times when America’s commitment to equality of opportunity is called into question. That’s when the temptation to exploit fear and envy returns – when many in Washington use the politics of division to evade responsibility for their failures and to advance their own narrow political interests.

    To my great disappointment, it appears that the politics of division are making a big comeback. Many Americans share my disappointment – especially those who were filled with great hope a few years ago, when then-Senator Obama announced his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois.

    Do you remember what he said? He said that what’s stopped us from meeting our nation’s greatest challenges is, quote, “the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics – the ease with which we’re distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

    And yet, nearly three years into his presidency, look at where we are now:

    • Petty and trivial? Just last week, the President told a crowd in North Carolina that Republicans are in favor of, quote, “dirtier air, dirtier water, and less people with health insurance.” Can you think of a pettier way to describe sincere disagreements between the two parties on regulation and health care?
    • Chronic avoidance of tough decisions? The President still has not put forward a credible plan to tackle the threat of ever-rising spending and debt, and it’s been over 900 days since his party passed a budget in the Senate.
    • A preference for scoring cheap political points instead of consensus-building? This is the same President who is currently campaigning against a do-nothing Congress, when in fact, the House of Representatives has passed over a dozen bills to help get the economy moving and deal with the debt, only to see the President’s party kill those bills in the do-nothing Senate.

    Look, we put our cards on the table. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives advanced a far-reaching plan filled with common-sense reforms aimed at putting the budget on the path to balance and the economy on the path to prosperity.

    But instead of working together where we agree, the President has opted for divisive rhetoric and the broken politics of the past. He is going from town to town, impugning the motives of Republicans, setting up straw men and scapegoats, and engaging in intellectually lazy arguments, as he tries to build support for punitive tax hikes on job creators.

    The tax increases proposed by Senate Democrats and endorsed by the President – when combined with the new taxes in the health-care law, and the President’s other tax preferences – would push the top federal tax rate to roughly 50 percent in just 14 months, while doing nothing to promote job creation.

    This tax increase on so-called “millionaires and billionaires” would actually constitute a huge tax hike on the nation’s most successful small businesses. According to the Tax Foundation, the surtax would hit roughly 35 percent of small-business income.

    As P.J. O’Rourke put it, “The good news is that, according to the Obama administration, the rich will pay for everything. The bad news is that, according to the Obama administration, you’re rich.”

    Actually, the news is even worse. As a practical matter, when you try to chase ever-higher spending with ever-higher tax increases, you eventually run into a brick wall of math.

    The President has been talking a lot about math lately. He’s been saying that, quote, “If we’re not willing to ask those who’ve done extraordinarily well to help America close the deficit… the math says… we’ve got to put the entire burden on the middle class and the poor.”

    This is really a stunning assertion from the President. When you look at the actual math, you quickly realize that the way out of this mess is to combine economic growth with reasonable, responsible spending restraint. Yet neither of these things factors into the President’s zero-sum logic.

    According to the President’s logic, we should give up on trying to reform our tax code to grow the economy and get more revenue that way. Instead, these goals are taking a backseat to the President’s misguided understanding of fairness.

    Remember that 2008 debate, when ABC’s Charlie Gibson pointed out that raising the capital gains tax rate actually tends to drive revenues down?

    Obama replied: “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.” That’s the kind of logic we are unfortunately seeing today.

    Also according to the President’s logic, spending restraint is incompatible with a strong, well-functioning safety net. The belief that recipients of government aid are better off the more we spend on them is remarkably persistent. No matter how many times this central tenet of liberalism gets debunked, like Brett Favre, it just keeps coming back.

    The President has wrongly framed Republican efforts to get government spending under control as hard-hearted attacks on the poor. In reality, spending on programs for seniors and for lower-income families continues to grow every year under the House-passed budget – it just grows at a sustainable rate. We direct tax dollars where they’re needed most, and stop spending money we don’t have on boondoggles we don’t need.

    The President’s political math is a muddled mix of false accusations and false choices. The actual math is apolitical, and it’s clear: By the time my kids are my age, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects that the size of government will be double what it is today.

    Government health care programs alone will have grown to consume 45 percent of federal spending. The primary driver of this increase is runaway inflation in health care costs, which are rising at 2 to 3 times the rate of GDP.

    It’s impossible to keep funding health care expenditures at this rate. Even President Obama has said, quote, “If you look at the numbers, Medicare in particular will run out of money, and we will not be able to sustain that program no matter how much taxes go up.”

    So the real debate is about how best to control these unsustainable costs. And if I could sum up that disagreement in a couple of sentences, I would say this: Our plan is to empower patients. Their plan is to empower bureaucrats.

    The Republican plan gives individuals the power to put market pressure on providers and make them compete.

    The President’s plan is to give 15 unelected bureaucrats in Washington the power to cut Medicare in ways that, according to Medicare’s own chief actuary, would simply drive providers out of business. This would result in harsh disruptions and denied care for seniors.

    Pain like this simply can’t be sustained. So when it comes to out-of-control spending on entitlements, the President’s math simply doesn’t add up.

    And his math is no better on the tax side. Let’s say we took all the income from those the President calls “rich” – those making $250,000 or more. A 100 percent tax rate on their total annual income would only fund the government for six months. Just six months!

    What about some of the other tax hikes the President likes to talk about? Under the President’s policies, deficits are set to rise by a whopping $9.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

    • Letting the top two tax rates expire would equal roughly 8 percent of that planned deficit increase.
    • Eliminating tax subsidies for oil and gas companies would only equal 0.5 percent of the President’s planned deficits.
    • And what about corporate jet owners? That provision would reduce those deficits by just 0.03 percent.

    Look, I’m all for closing tax loopholes – but you can’t close our nation’s deficits by chasing ever-higher spending with politically motivated tax hikes here and there. Instead, tax reform must broaden the base and lower rates.

    This policy approach, which has attracted strong bipartisan support, would bolster our fiscal health by increasing competitiveness and encouraging more investment and job creation.

    Lately, the President has been fond of taking Ronald Reagan quotes out of context, in an effort to persuade Republicans that Reagan would have agreed with the idea of using fear and envy to push a partisan agenda of permanently higher taxes.

    Every time he does this, I can picture Reagan shaking his head: “There you go again.”

    Obama quotes Reagan as saying that bus drivers shouldn’t pay a higher effective tax rate than millionaires. Well, that’s a no-brainer. Nobody disagrees with that.

    But it is simply disingenuous to use this quote as evidence that Reagan would have supported the tax increases that Obama wants Congress to pass.

    Reagan was attempting to build support for the landmark 1986 tax reform, a revenue-neutral law that reformed the tax code by lowering tax rates while broadening the tax base.

    Reagan’s point – which President Obama clearly missed – was not that we should raise tax rates to chase out-of-control spending in Washington.

    His point was that we should get rid of loopholes that are exploited by the few, so that we could lower everyone’s tax rates and help the economy grow.

    The House-passed budget includes this kind of tax reform, which many agree would provide an immediate boost to the economy. Our budget proposed getting rid of scores of loopholes, lowering the hurdles for job creation and economic growth, and making our tax code fair, simple, and competitive.

    In his address to Congress last month, the President said he agrees in principle with this kind of reform, especially when it comes to the uncompetitive way we tax our businesses.

    This made Republicans think, well, we might have an opportunity here for the kind of genuine consensus-building that the President talked about as a candidate.

    Yet he chose not to pursue this kind of tax reform. Instead, he sent us a partisan bill filled with the same stimulus proposals that failed two years ago, only this time he also asked for permanent tax hikes to go with them.

    He’s also failed to work with us on another area where one would think we could find common ground: ending the lavish subsidies and government benefits that go to those who are already successful.

    The House-passed budget was full of proposals to get rid of corporate welfare and crony capitalism.

    • Why are tax dollars being wasted on bankrupt, politically-connected solar energy firms?
    • Why is Washington wasting your money on entrenched agribusiness?
    • Why have we extended an endless supply of taxpayer credit to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, instead of demanding that their government guarantee be wound down and their taxpayer subsidies ended?

    Rather than raising taxes and making it more difficult for Americans to become wealthy, let’s lower the amount of government spending the wealthy now receive.

    The President likes to use Warren Buffett and his secretary as an example of why we should raise taxes on the rich.

    Well, Warren Buffett gets the same health and retirement benefits from the government as his secretary.

    But our proposals to modestly income-adjust Social Security and Medicare benefits have been met with sheer demagoguery by leading members of the President’s party.

    The politics of division have always struck me as odd: the eagerness to take more, combined with the refusal to subsidize less.

    Instead of working with us on these common-sense reforms, the President is barnstorming swing states, pushing a divisive message that pits one group of Americans against another on the basis of class.

    This just won’t work in America. Class is not a fixed designation in this country. We are an upwardly mobile society with a lot of movement between income groups.

    The Treasury Department’s latest study on income mobility in America found that during the ten-year period starting in 1996, roughly half of the taxpayers who started in the bottom 20 percent had moved up to a higher income group by 2005.

    Meanwhile, half of all taxpayers ended up in a different income group at the end of ten years. Many moved up, and some moved down, but economic growth resulted in rising incomes for most people over this period.

    Another recent survey of over 500 successful entrepreneurs found that 93 percent came from middle-class or lower-class backgrounds. The majority were the first in their families to launch a business.

    Their stories are the American story: Millions of immigrants fled from the closed societies of the Old World to the security of equal rights in this land of upward mobility.

    Telling Americans they are stuck in their current station in life, that they are victims of circumstances beyond their control, and that government’s role is to help them cope with it – well, that’s not who we are. That’s not what we do.

    Our Founding Fathers rejected this mentality. In societies marked by class structure, an elite class made up of rich and powerful patrons supplies the needs of a large client underclass that toils, but cannot own. The unfairness of closed societies is the kindling for class warfare, where the interests of “capital” and “labor” are perpetually in conflict. What one class wins, the other loses.

    The legacy of this tradition can still be seen in Europe today: Top-heavy welfare states have replaced the traditional aristocracies, and masses of the long-term unemployed are locked into the new lower class.

    The United States was destined to break out of this bleak history. Our future would not be staked on traditional class structures, but on civic solidarity. Gone would be the struggle of class against class.

    Instead, Americans would work, compete, and co-operate in an open market, climb the ladder of opportunity, and keep the fruits of their efforts.

    Self-government and the rule of law would secure our equal, God-given rights. Our political and economic systems – rooted in freedom and responsibility – would reward, and thus cultivate, traditional virtues.

    Given that the President’s policies have moved us closer to the European model, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that his class-based rhetoric has followed suit.

    We shouldn’t be surprised… but we have every right to be disappointed. Instead of appealing to the hope and optimism that were hallmarks of his first campaign, he has launched his second campaign by preying on the emotions of fear, envy, and resentment.

    This has the potential to be just as damaging as his misguided policies. Sowing social unrest and class resentment makes America weaker, not stronger. Pitting one group against another only distracts us from the true sources of inequity in this country – corporate welfare that enriches the powerful, and empty promises that betray the powerless.

    Ironically, equality of outcome is a form of inequality – one that is based on political influence and bureaucratic favoritism.

    That’s the real class warfare that threatens us: A class of bureaucrats and connected crony capitalists trying to rise above the rest of us, call the shots, rig the rules, and preserve their place atop society. And their gains will come at the expense of working Americans, entrepreneurs, and that small businesswoman who has the gall to take on the corporate chieftain.

    It’s disappointing that this President’s actions have exacerbated this form of class warfare in so many ways:

    • While the EPA is busy punishing commercially competitive sources of energy, a class of bureaucrats at the Department of Energy has been acting like the world’s worst venture capital fund, spending recklessly on politically favored alternatives.
    • While the unemployment rate remains stuck above 9 percent, a class of bureaucrats at the National Labor Relations Board is threatening hundreds of jobs by suing an American employer for politically motivated reasons.
    • And while millions of Americans are left wondering whether their employers will drop their health insurance because of the new health care law, a class of bureaucrats at HHS has handed out over 1,400 waivers to those firms and unions with the political connections to lobby for them.

    These actions starkly highlight the difference between the two parties that lies at the heart of the matter: Whether we are a nation that still believes in equality of opportunity, or whether we are moving away from that, and towards an insistence on equality of outcome.

    If you believe in the former, you follow the American Idea that justice is done when we level the playing field at the starting line, and rewards are proportionate to merit and effort.

    If you believe in the latter kind of equality, you think most differences in wealth and rewards are matters of luck or exploitation, and that few really deserve what they have.

    That’s the moral basis of class warfare – a false morality that confuses fairness with redistribution, and promotes class envy instead of social mobility.

    I’d like to introduce President Obama to the Ronald Reagan he isn’t so eager to quote – the man who said, “Since when do we in America believe that our society is made up of two diametrically opposed classes – one rich, one poor – both in a permanent state of conflict and neither able to get ahead except at the expense of the other? Since when do we in America accept this alien and discredited theory of social and class warfare? Since when do we in America endorse the politics of envy and division?”

    President Reagan was absolutely right. Instead of policies that make it harder for Americans to rise, let’s lower the hurdles to upward mobility.

    That’s what the American Idea is all about. You know, in the midst of all the joys and sorrows of our everyday lives, I think we sometimes forget why America was considered such an exceptional nation at its Founding, and why it remains so.

    To me, the results of the Founders’ exceptional vision can be summed up in a single sentence: Throughout human history, the American Idea has done more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed.

    Americans, guided by our ideals, have sacrificed everything to combat tyranny and brutal dictators; we’ve expanded opportunity, opened markets, and inspired others to resist oppression; we’ve exported innovation and imagination; and we’ve welcomed immigrants seeking a fresh start.

    Here in America – unlike most places on earth – all citizens have the right to rise.

    Thank you.

    Posted in Featured, Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    31 Responses to VIDEO: Rep. Paul Ryan on Saving the American Idea

    1. @GregSavoy says:

      Maybe it was just my view from the extreme right hand side of the auditorium, but nothing new happened here; no news. What he proposes is a hocus-pocus dithering of the current Orwellian tax system. There is no winning in that fool's approach, only degrees of losing. Of course everybody always believes and hopes privately that the new dithered numbers will work out well for them individually. Maybe you'll be a winner here at room #101, so stay on-board and just answer the question, Am I holding up four fingers or five fingers? I'll ask it again, and answer correctly this time, am I holding up four fingers or five fingers?

      • Jim 62 says:

        Greg.. Saying that you are from the "extreme right" tells me one thing,, Bull Shit !.. your a leftist moonbat trying to draw responces.. Does your mother know that you not at the mall..
        I have been dealing with moonbats for years and the extreme right or left never say so…

      • Greg Likins says:

        "Hocus-Pocus"? The free market system and the American rugged individualism is far from hocus pocus. What is hocus-pocus is the Marxist scheme

    2. If you believe in the American Dream listen to what Congress man Pual Ryan says

    3. What we need are some Tenth Amendment czars. No really the problem is the size and scope of the federal government, it simply tries to do and be too much. The spending and debt are but a symptom of this problem. http://www.thebalancedgovernmentamendment.com

      • toni Knowles says:

        How about a Congress that works? I am not sure whether Professor/President/Ruler Obama or Congress are more absent from the job.. Maybe the White House should stop spending time telling parents how badly they raise their children. Or perhaps the White House should watch their snide remarks reference to In God We Trust. It seems we can't trust anyone else. We sure can't trust Professor/President/Ruler Obama who uses his executive order privileges to by-pass Congress? What has happened to checks and balances?

        www,tonisopinions.com

    4. Mickey Mantle says:

      Somebody talk Paul Ryan into running for president !!!!! My "dream team": Paul Ryan for president, Marco Rubio for Vice-President. You can also throw the name Eric Cantor in there for good measure. Any ONE of those 3 have more brains in their little finger and would be able to unite this great country better than the illegal immigrant from Kenya. "JANUARY 20, 2013…..THE END OF AN ERROR". 450 more days of he ll until its over and the dancing in the streets begins.

      • kletas says:

        Your right wing attitude is so amusing, the men you want to be in these offices would destroy AMERICA, and your life as you know it. You are not rich enough to stay in the company of the Koch Bros puppets, who get millions to profess this garbage you so stupidly beleive.

    5. KD Myers says:

      Very impressive speech; excellent title!

    6. Bobbie says:

      America needs honorable leadership that understands the greatness of this country and where Americans should, could and would be today if leadership was honorable! People have to live under common law not make favors and rights to some because the president likes them more!

      Once the door is open to government, it's open to any crisis. Let us get back to what's expected of us as Americans without expecting less of some as the president does with bias, favor, special rights using other peoples' money.

      Personal responsibilities and held accountable to them is self governing. The world doesn't need one government! The world needs America's freedom with leadership that respects humanity!

      The game playing destruction and ignorance of the members of the democratic party has to be shoved aside so we can commence America's greatness and regain her strength. Paul Ryan along with many from the republican party, has the courage and drive to bring America back without exception! Leadership that respects our abilities to self govern are in the republican party, ONLY! LIVE FREE don't vote democrat!

      Seems most democrats are working for some by cheating the rest at America's expense! That's not American leadership! We deserve honesty and integrity in leadership that doesn't exist with the current commander in chief. Thank you Mr. Ryan and all, for your dignity and strength!

      • toni Knowles says:

        Really good! I was afraid that the word "Honor" had been taken out of out the language!

        To me, it seems that Congress and Professor/President/Ruler Obama are so busy fighting among themselvesa and leaves the voters in pain.
        http://www.tonisopinions.com

    7. Retiredlife says:

      So what is the fix, and how is it going to be implemented? So what does the tax payer do to get the money back from the Federal Government that was stolen from them in the form of Social Security taxes, medicare taxes. Those entitlements are due the payers, and should not have been designated for illegal aliens, welfare (medicaid).

      • Toni Knowles says:

        I would seem that we must be on the edge of bankrupty before we will be recognized by Washington, DC. Look at all the millons given to these conpanyies, most solar energy, when their books showed the danger.

        Gosh, I forgot, i did take bankrupty. i should have notified the President Obama.
        http://www.tonisopinions.com

    8. HES says:

      It is sad to say, but Obama is the most radical of all our presidents. What is equally troubling is that the Democrats are mostly marching in lockstep with him and his czars and henchmen. I believe Schumer and Durbin are the worst, along with the problematical H. Clinton, not to mention the hard to find Bill and his unknown agenda, and his friends. And Pelosi, and the faithful H. Reid. Perhaps, even Kagan of the SCOTUS.
      We shall see, and I hope it will not be too late.

    9. PARISA says:

      If he were to join the others in running for president today, he would jump ahead of every poll. His time is NOW! We don't have 4 years to wait.

    10. DanBritt says:

      Paul Ryan made a wonderful speech defining conservatism!
      Then he, answered the questions in a clear and concise manner.

    11. Robert David Hummel says:

      Thank You Rep (R) Ryan,….Your Fair, firm, and Balanced report to the public is ANOTHER CLEAR WARNING…that "WE NEED TO TAKE OUR AMERICA BACK" We need take decisive and RAPID action, AT THE LEAST…WE THE PEOPLE..INCLUSIVE WITH THE POWERFUL "SILENT MAJORITY"…NEED TO Stand-up,Step-out, and VOTE-out.the Present …EXECUTIVE and LEGISLATIVE ELECTED OFFICIALS, (To include may RHINO's), Nov,5, 2012,…..Before they PUSH "OUR STILL FREE NATION",OVER THE CLIFT of NO RETURN…as in the HISTORICAL FALL of The Roman Empire……..May God Grant us CONTINUED BLESSINGS, as we endure to "TAKE OUR AMERICA BACK".

    12. Nate says:

      Please post as a downloadable mp3 so people can listen on their iPods, etc.

    13. Erik Bruvold says:

      Where I disagree with Ryan is on this "Whether we are a nation that still believes in equality of opportunity, or whether we are moving away from that, and towards an insistence on equality of outcome."

      His own examples (and argument) suggest the word "insistence" is incorrect. That MAY well be the rhetorical goal – but the underlying logic of his critique is that it NEVER actually is realized – that the group of connected capitalists and bureaucrats (which, by the way, are simple the same people at different stages of their career) game the system so as to PRESERVE the very inequalities they rail against

      • dalehawk1@cox.net says:

        Got a better idea ? Spell it out. It's easy to be critical . You don't back up your points , you don't offer any solutions . If you're going to come in here and critisize without telling why, then all you are doing is making noise.

        • Barney Murrell says:

          To dalehawk1:
          Erik Bruvold did back up his point; which was "that that the group of connected capitalists and bureaucrats (which, by the way, are simple the same people at different stages of their career) game the system" to their benefit. I.E. from politician to lobbyist to corporate jobs, etc, all the while enriching themselves and friends at the expense of everyone else.

          Polticis is a revolving door with corporations.

    14. Frustrated says:

      Why is Ryan not running for the GOP nomination? Is it the fact that he just has too much common sense?

      • joekatzman says:

        Paul Ryan is the GOP's Delta Force Policy Commando. That's a different set of skills, and resources in place, than the ones required to run for President. Indeed, the demands of a Presidential campaign and role are likely to take away the time and opportunity to perform the role Ryan is currently in. Which would leave Ryan miserable, and the GOP with no replacement. Lose-lose-lose, and the last "lose" is for us.

        The right place to focus instead, is on building the legislative A-Team around Ryan, even as the GOP works to build a bench of future Presidential candidates (as a separate project).

    15. Andy Keyes says:

      The next Ronald Reagan

    16. Susan says:

      This is a thoughtful young man who is defining what we all feel is happening. He may not feel ready yet but someday he will be ready to run for President! He articulates the coming disaster of pitting one group against the other.

    17. Toni . Knowles says:

      The real problem, with Rep, Ryan's rhetorical comments, is that he will not acknowledge that closing the loopholes and special benefits for a small majority of Americans while technical a tax raise for them ,would benefit the treasury. Why should money earned and kept overseas be tax free? Why should Exxon-Mobile with its enormous quarterly profits receive monetary support from the government for research. What research, and will any benefit the taxpayer who is funding this research?

    18. Sphia says:

      Obama had his chance to lead this country and make it stronger. Instead, he has consorted with the enemy to bring America down. Him and his dammed Muhammad.

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