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The new U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee Chair, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., talked about his policy goals for the next two years on the eve of a congressional debate over the federal budget.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and tobacco company Altria were co-sponsors March 3, 2011, of “Conversations with the Chair,” the second in a series of interviews presented and moderated by the National Journal with chairmen of the various committees of the House of Representatives. SHRM is co-sponsoring the events to help drive the conversation on the politics and policies that impact the HR profession.
Ryan was interviewed by Major Garrett, formerly a reporter for Fox News and a White House correspondent for CNN and newspapers around the U.S.
During the one-hour “lightening-round” style interview, Ryan touched on a potential federal government shutdown, emphasized the need to implement tax reform and spoke of his desire to see Medicare reformed to make it “solvent and sustainable.”
Ryan is serving his seventh term as a member of Congress and is senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax policy, Social Security, health care and trade laws.
Reminded by Garrett that fellow Republican and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has suggested that the House Republican leadership was allergic to a government shutdown, Ryan responded that they have a greater allergy to high spending.
“I’m allergic to penicillin. That could kill me,” Ryan noted. “I’m kind of allergic to pollen. Penicillin is high spending; pollen is a shutdown. We’re not interested in shutting the government down; that’s not a good idea. But more importantly, we cannot accept these high elevated spending levels,” he said.
“We don’t want to see the government shut down. We want to cut spending, and that’s the direction we are now headed. That’s the direction we want to continue going.”
Ryan has been critical of the sweeping health care reform legislation that the Obama administration advocated and that a predominantly Democrat Congress passed in March 2010.
His criticism has extended to Medicare, which he has predicted in opinion pieces is “on course to collapse” and that Medicare and interest on the national debt will overwhelm the federal budget.
“Yes, we are going to have Medicare reform” in the proposed budget the committee is preparing, he said, but he refused to go into detail what that proposed reform will look like.
“I want to leave something up for surprise when we release this budget in April,” he said. “Will we put entitlement reforms in this budget? Absolutely. …You can’t fix this country’s problems without addressing the drivers of our debt, without addressing entitlements,” Ryan said.
Entitlements refer to programs guaranteed under law that give seniors and persons who are ill or unemployed access to programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
“We want to look at corporate [tax] reform; we want to look at tax reform for economic growth,” Ryan said. “Whether our resolution will include that or not, you’ll find out in April,” he said.
However, he called for a cleaning up of the tax code and making it more efficient, “more pro-growth, more competitive.”
“The way we tax our businesses is really an antiquated system of the 20th century,” he said. He described the system as “full of crony capitalism … that rewards special interest, rewards narrow interest at the expense of better tax policy for everybody.”
The next “Conversation” is scheduled for March 16, 2011, with Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., House Appropriations Committee chairman.
The National Journal plans to live-stream the events on its website. The archive for the Ryan event is available at http://nationaljournal.com/njconvoryan.
Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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