On Wednesday, Rep. Paul Ryan (WI-R) gave a major address at the Heritage Foundation entitled “Saving the American Ideal: Rejecting Fear, Envy and the Politics of Division.”
Since winning elected office in 1998, Congressman Ryan has worked tirelessly to end the tide of profligate government spending in Washington. As Chairman of the House Budget Committee and one of the youngest members of the House Republican leadership, he has boldly advocated new and innovative solutions to solve the nation’s lingering economic and budgetary challenges.
Yet despite his best efforts, the United States continues to grapple with record deficits and chronic unemployment. Ryan argues that we have reached a pivotal moment in our history, a point where American’s founding principles are unequivocally threatened by the misguided policies of the current administration.
“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,” he said. “And that means opportunity.”
But given the state of the U.S. economy, where millions have lost their jobs and Americans everywhere are struggling, he acknowledges that the road to fiscal solvency will not be easy.
“The American idea is not tried in times of prosperity,” he said. “Instead, it is tested when times are tough: when the pie is shrinking, when businesses are closing, and when workers are losing their jobs.”
While he is optimistic about the future, his greatest disappointment -- and the essence of his speech -- is how the leadership in Washington espouses class warfare and the politics of division. He is particularly critical of President Obama, whom he says has divided the nation ever since taking the oath of office. Although Obama campaigned on the essential promise he would unite the country -- his policies, speeches, and divisive rhetoric, according to Ryan, have split the nation asunder.
“Just last week,” Ryan stated, “the President told a crowd in North Carolina that Republicans are in favor of, 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?”
This is not the first time that the President has used demagoguery to divide and polarize the nation. His repeated efforts to label Republicans, in both chambers of Congress, intransigent and uncompromising are, in his view, utter fallacies. He explains that the House of Representatives, for example, has passed over a dozen jobs bills to jumpstart the American economy, only to have the legislation go nowhere in the Democrat controlled Senate.
Furthermore, punitive tax increases on job creators -- such as small business and corporations -- are continually endorsed by the President and his party. These new policies, he says, are creating uncertainty in the private sector and preventing companies from expanding and hiring more employees. And yet, he has no qualms about asking American taxpayer to fund his costly social welfare and entitlement programs by raising the top federal tax rate to 50 percent. Indeed, his tax hike on so called “millionaires and billionaires” would raise taxes on 35% of small businesses.
The source of America’s financial problems, Ryan asserts, stems not from a lack of income but from the out-of-control spending habits of the federal government. That’s why reforming the tax code – and making it more simple, fair, and predictable – would boost federal revenues without legislating onerous tax hikes on working Americans.
“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,” he said.
The reality is that nearly 50% of Americas pay zero federal income taxes. And large corporations, moreover, benefit from the same system because they are able to save millions of dollars every year through tax loopholes. Overhauling the tax code, which is over 72,000 pages long, is absolutely essential to reigning in spending and putting America’s fiscal house in order.
Congressman Ryan also stressed that the United States is a nation built on social mobility – where the poor can escape the manacles of systemic poverty and the middle class can meet their families’ financial needs. But when political leaders in charge of uniting the country spend their time campaigning for reelection and sowing the seeds of class envy, real governmental reforms are nearly impossible to implement.
“This just won’t work in America,” Ryan said. “Class is not a fixed designation in this country. We are an upwardly mobile society with a lot of movement between income groups.”
A recent study by the Department of the Treasury, he explains, found that nearly half of income earners in 1996 languished in the lowest income brackets. But through their own hard work and self-determination, they were able to climb into a higher income bracket by 2005. In a different survey of more than 500 successful entrepreneurs, 93 percent came from modest to lower-class backgrounds.
In other words, what makes America the envy of the world is that its citizens -- if they’re willing to work hard -- can be successful regardless of where they come from or the circumstances of their birth.
“To me, the results of the Founders’ exceptional vision can be summed up in a single sentence,” he said. “Throughout human history, the American idea has done more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed.”
And that system, he contends, is the only way to usher in a new era of economic prosperity for all of America’s citizens.