Rep. Peter Roskam on the Ryan Budget Plan: Obama’s Lack of Leadership Gives GOP a Leading Issue

No one but the worst sycophant thinks that President Obama’s latest stab at a federal budget is a serious plan. In fact, that he’s come before the American people again with a second budget plan itself bespeaks of a president badly floundering on the issue. This has left the Republican Party, and more specifically the GOP led House of Representatives, as the only real game in town on the budget, the debt, and in correcting the Bacchanalia of spending that Congress has indulged for nigh on the last 100 years.

Sadly the Old Media has let Obama skate on the fact that this is his second stab at a budget. If this had been a Republican president forced to throw away his first budget plan, forced to offer a second one, the Old Media would be proclaiming him a president in trouble, a failed leader, a man without influence. Obama, however, has been given a complete pass on his total failure to lead and convince.

Regardless, the GOP has proven to be the adults in the room here with its public face of Paul Ryan and his “path to prosperity” budget plan. As flawed as it might be it is the only serious plan on the table at this time.

I recently spoke to GOP Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R, IL) about the House plan.

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In fact, Roskam mentioned how the media has given Obama a pass on his failure to lead on the budget.

[Obama’s] first go around just got laughed off by the public stage by -— of all entities, the New York Times editorial page and the Washington Post and the Journal and the Tribune. And it was rejected as not serious, not leadership, and basically just phoning it in. And by contrast, the House Republicans produced a plan that makes sense, brings customers to the market, and ultimately creates an environment for the American entrepreneurial spirit that has made the country great. You can hardly imagine a starker contrast.

One of the left’s complaints, I told the congressman, is that the Ryan plan was pushed through with no debate. It is interesting that they’d complain about this seeing as how everything they did under Nancy Pelosi was done with no debate. Regardless, in this case, the charge is not really true. Roskam reports that House leadership has been having “small group discussions with members of Congress that have been highly interactive” where members are being asked their concerns. Further there’s still a lot of time for debate as the budget is not a “done deal” in as much as it has not had any final vote.

The GOP is ready to cut even more than they already have, too. Roskam said, “there’s such a strong Republican vote coming out last week and it was this very unified voice where everybody was saying, ‘Look, let’s turn the page and instead of us cutting billions, now let’s talk about cutting trillions.'”

In other words, this plan is still being formed, it is not passed “without debate” and is not yet a done deal. Roskam also says that the American people are in the lead, here.

As you know this morning, S&P made their announcement of the debt forecasting, the urgency of this can’t be overstated. We’re actually operating on the assumption that the public is ahead of the political class on this and the public knows that something is going on. In the end that there’s now open conversations about the US dollar not being the reserve currency or when the American President goes to the G-20 Summit and he’s not the dominant figure anymore… this is all very troublesome and the people know it. They know something is going on and they’re looking for a remedy.

This is in sharp contrast to the fecklessness that President Obama is showing on the budget, says Roskam. The congressman says that Obama is only, “refashioning an old failed argument that is in the pretense of that discussion is really a prelude to raising taxes.”

In fact, if you raise taxes, you’re going to be eating your prosperity. And the irony is that the Ryan plan completely eclipses that whole argument. Obama’s fixated on whether the ’01 and the ’03 tax cuts should be made permanent. And what we’re saying is, let’s lower the rates for every one -— lower the corporate rate, lower the individual rate, clean up the exemptions and loopholes to broaden the base and create that environment where global capital comes into the US. It’s a very different path where I think it’s a choice that ultimately the country is going to make.

Another one of the Democrat’s charges is that the Ryan plan lowers taxes on “the rich.” I asked Roskam what his response was to that charge.

Roskam said that there really isn’t any lowering of the tax rate because they are getting rid of a bunch of loopholes and exemptions so they feel that “the rich” won’t be getting any reduction in tax rates with the Ryan plan.

But it is Congressional spending that Roskam was chiefly concerned about.

If we don’t deal with the spending side of things then what’s going to happen is there will be a debt crisis and the liberals will then lower a big VAT tax on the top of the economy and basically smother it. Not unlike what we saw happen in Illinois. Not with a VAT but just with all this pressure of raised taxes. I’ve come to the conclusion that either we manage the debt or the debt manages us. And I say, let’s manage it. We know the consequences of our action and I’m convinced that the public is actually ahead of the political class, that the public wants to have a clear pathway. They want to have a choice. They want to be talked to straight.

Roskam laments that the Democrats are so unserious about cutting spending.

Remember when Senator Dick Durbin came a couple of months ago and said, “The most we can cut is billion dollars”? He added after that some draconian prediction about what would happen if you cut more than 10 billion. You would have thought that the sky was going to fall based on his predictions. But the House moved forward and passed the biggest cut in American history and, Warner, the sun came up the next day.

The public is not into hyperbole. They don’t want to hear people over arguing small points. They want to hear fair, clear, accurate descriptions that are based on experience and common sense. And they want choices to be made based on that experience. They know in their own lives that you can’t borrow money without a repayment plan and the same thing is true here.

Even at a foreign policy level, the increased vulnerability to continue to borrow from foreign interests is wrong. As you know, 47% of our national debt is held by foreign interests whereas back in 1970, that was only 5%. The vulnerability that this creates is foolishness. To say that there’s not going to be a foreign policy consequence to this… this is where Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said when asked biggest national security threat, “Without question, it’s our debt.”

Roskam dismissed many conservative’s concerns that the House has failed to seriously cut the budget or that they are not serious about continuing to do so moving forward.

I think it’s important to recognize two things. Number one, the House Republicans control one half of one third of the government. So, the public in 2010 entrusted the House to the GOP but they kept the Senate in the Democrats’ hands. And obviously didn’t have a chance to weigh in on the presidency so, we’re dealing with the consequences of the election. Within that context, we did the largest cut in American history and have moved the President from spending, through freezing, to cutting and he’s doing that while he’s grinding his teeth. He doesn’t like it. But he signed the bill into law, the largest cut in American history.

Now if we cut per the Ryan plan, it’s six trillion over the next ten years, we can be doing this if we get the support. It’s super important to understand the trend line, here. This is ultimately about confidence. I think if we were to enact the House Republican budget, I don’t think that we would see the same kind of tremors within the financial markets that we saw this morning. I think it would be a much more confident pathway and people would say there’s a plan, it’s articulated, we’ve decided on it, we’re moving forward on it, and I think that that brings an expectation as opposed to what we have right now and that is an executive branch that’s doing little to lead and assure us of our fiscal stability.

Finally, Roskam was pleased to see the “high level of conversation and interaction” between Ryan, the House leadership, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, Fred Upton head of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Doc Hastings Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee.

In the past, you’ve rarely seen this sort cooperation between committee chairmen. And you now see a highly functional process behind the scenes that’s happening, that’s coordinated, and thoughtful where the Budget Committee Chairman and the Ways and Means Committee Chairman are in tandem. It’s hard to overstate how important this is to ultimately moving a good comprehensive package through the House.

Naturally Roskam is enthused about the Ryan budget, though. After all he’s part of the GOP leadership team. As the GOP’s go-to budget guy in leadership he’s certain to be one of its biggest cheerleaders. So, to get another perspective I turned to Doug Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum.

Holtz-Eakin is the former Director of the Congressional Budget Office and was the chief economic policy adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign

“I am by and large supportive of the Ryan Plan,” Holtz-Eakin told me. “The debt explosion is the top problem facing our country. The Ryan plan represents leadership and it seems like a meritorious effort. It also takes on the entitlements and reforms their structure. We may get slower deficit reduction, but that seems worth it.”

I asked him what he thought might be missing in the Ryan plan. “Maybe we could get Medicare reforms faster,” he said. “More Social Security reforms are needed, too. I think there’s every reason to believe that Social Security is the easiest thing to reform now. There’s no near term impacts and its not politically impossible.”

“The fundamental disagreement I have with critics is that doing nothing is NOT an option. The critics don’t seem to have a plan at all,” he said ruefully.

Obama’s plan is a disgrace. There’s NO plan there. His plan consists of appointing another unnecessary commission and having across the board cuts except on Medicare, Obamacare or anything else that is actually the problem. He’s in full campaign mode, but in terms of substantive leadership on the debate he’s missing in action.

“The tipoff,” Holtz-Eakin told me, “is that he chose an over the next 12 years point as his standard. Obviously he could not go head-to-head with Ryan’s ten-year plan.”

Holtz-Eakin was also shocked at how personal Obama’s attack on Representative Paul Ryan has been. It is a clear lack of leadership that Obama has made this a personal attack on a single member of Congress Holtz-Eakin insisted. The fact that Obama actually invited Ryan to the speech then, without ever looking him in the eye, the president attacked Ryan in personal terms — with attacks getting even more personal with his supporters after the speech — was “incredible” as far as Holtz-Eakin is concerned.

In all, Doug Holtz-Eakin was generally supportive of the Ryan Path to Prosperity. Warts and all it is the only serious plan on the table he told me. The fact is, until the Democrats bother to come to the table with an actual plan, there really is only one plan: Paul Ryan’s. And since we went all of 2010 without budget passed — yes, even with the Democrats then in full control — it doesn’t seem likely that the Democrats will be offering a serious plan any time soon.

Roskam’s office produced a pair of videos to explain their position of the Ryan plan and has more info on Roskam’s website

A Tidal Wave of Debt – Part One

A Path to Prosperity – Part Two

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