An interview with Rep. Paul Ryan
I recently had the chance to sit down and chat with Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and the ranking GOPer on the House Budget Committee. Ryan’s a rising Republican star (he’ll be just 40 next month), a guy some folks were pushing to be John McCain’s running mate in 2008. If there’s a young Jack Kemp in today’s Congress, he’s it. And if you’re wondering what the 21st century Republican Party will stand for, many of the ideas will probably come from Ryan. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:
Boosting the economy
I would do whatever I could to keep tax rates low and permanent. I subscribe to the [Milton] Friedman permanent income effect. And I believe in the Kennedy-Mundell-Reagan policy mix of low tax rates and sound money. And that also means getting our debt under control.
Look what’s going to hit us in 2011. We are going to have a massive tax increase on labor and capital, and the Fed for sure is going to be tight by then. We are doing kind of a cash for clunkers on the whole economy. We are pulling growth from 2011 into 2010. Economic decision makers are looking at the policy climate, and it is horrendous. Then they read the newspapers and see payroll taxes, pay or play, cap-and-trade and this uncertain regulatory environment. It’s the uncertainty tax. There is this enormous uncertainty being injected into the economy, and everybody is sitting on their hands.
Our government is led by ideologues, and they are bound and determined to implement a social welfare state, a cradle-to-grave entitlement society, a high-tax, high-government-dependency society. And the countries that have gone down that path have higher unemployment, a lower standard of living and more economic stagnation.
If you listened to the healthcare debate [in the House], the leaders of the Democratic party, they all basically said the same thing: This is the third wave of progressivism, we are finally completing the progressive agenda with passage of this bill. They really believe they can finally transform America into something it’s not.
The VAT is coming. They just know they can’t do it before the election. My fear is that the credit markets blow up on us again, we’ll get some shot across the bow by the bond market one of these days. And if the Democrats are still in power, that will bring us the VAT. They will say they have no choice but to do it to save the creditworthiness of the government. It will kind of be like another TARP weekend where the Treasury Secretary and the Fed chairman come to Capitol Hill hyperventilating and out of that comes a VAT. Our government is premeditating a moment like that. But there is another way with real entitlement reform, real tax reform, fulfilling health and retirement security but also paying off our debts and making our economy really competitive.
A deficit commission
I think we should just do our jobs. The way this commission is going to be stacked, I fear, will be for a slow moderation in spending but a big increase in taxes. To really fix this problem, what you’ve got to do is have a defined benefits safety net with a defined contribution system on top. You could design this in different flavors, but that is the gist of what you have to do to wipe these unfunded liabilities off the books.
What I think we are doing here is enshrining “too big to fail” in our system and making a permanent crony capitalist system.