I just concluded an extensive sit-down interview with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. We'll eventually post full video of the exchange on the home page, but I thought some of his remarks regarding the ongoing debt negotiations were newsworthy enough to report right away. Ryan told me that based on what he's hearing from the parties involved, Democrats are fighting real spending cuts tooth-and-nail behind closed doors. He believes irreconcilable ideological differences will dash any real hopes for a so-called "grand deal" on tax and entitlement reforms prior to the August 2 deadline:
"I don't think a grand deal will happen. The reason I don't think a grand deal will happen is because the president is very ideological, and if you believe what he believes -- and we believe what we believe, I don't see how you get to a grand deal."
Given his decidedly dim hopes for a more comprehensive accord, Ryan suggested smaller-scale, and perhaps shorter term, compromises are the only way forward. I also asked him if he could hypothetically see himself supporting Sen. Mitch McConnell's controversial back-stop contingency plan. Ryan wasn't eager to weigh in specifically on it, but declined to slam the door:
"I don't want to go to [McConnell's plan] yet. I'm not trying to evade it, but I want to cut spending, and I don't want to give up on spending cuts. Because if I start saying 'yeah, I'll take [the McConnell deal],' then we're giving up on spending cuts. I'm not a fan of the idea. I understand the merits -- the pros and cons -- of the idea. It has a fairly cool reception around here. But I want to get as many spending cuts as I can."
Ryan also unleashed a diatribe against President Obama's class warfare rhetoric, which he said may be effective for partisan point scoring, but accomplishes nothing in the way of solving the nation's problems. I'll update this post with those comments as soon as they're transcribed (see Update II).
UPDATE - During the interview, Ryan also stated his unabashed support for the Balanced Budget Amendment (which, for what it's worth, Mitch McConnell has also endorsed). Ryan dismissed concerns that the enactment of a BBA could render his Path for Prosperity budget blueprint unconstitutional, saying that even if there were some complicating technicalities, he could "easily" adjust his plan to conform to its requirements.
UPDATE II - As promised, here are Ryan's largely unprompted remarks about President Obama's class warfare tactics:
GB: Is the President, at the end of the day, really holding all the cards because Republicans have said from day one 'we don’t want the default to happen,' so they won’t shoot the hostage...?
PR: Yeah, that’s a very accurate observation, I think, which is we’re not interested in playing with default because what default would mean is our interest rates go up, and then that costs the government so much money -- and then we are that much farther behind on our spending. It makes the problem a lot more materially worse. So obviously -- and I just said that -- but it is the fact and it is the truth. The president’s clearly going to play class warfare. I mean look, we were never talking about corporate jet tax policy. That was never a piece of conversation or an object of discussion in these talks until the president had a press conference where he mentioned it six times. This is tax policy that he put in his stimulus bill and passed, and now he’s trying to use this corporate jet tax which is a tiny, tiny piece…
GB: The White House won’t even say how much revenue…
PR: Yeah well it’s like maybe 300 million, we’ve heard. We don’t even know. The point is, it’s fundamentally unserious and it’s fundamentally political, and it’s class warfare. Class warfare, I will concede, can make for pretty good politics. The problem is, it pits Americans against each other. It puts in place a culture of envy and it’s really bad economics. It does not give you good economic policy to grow jobs. Fifty-four percent of American workers get their jobs from what we call pass through entities -- such as (unintelligible) corporations, partnerships, meaning successful small businesses that file their taxes as individuals…. These small businesses right now have a massive tax increase already coming in law in 2013, and now the president is saying he wants to raise [taxes] even farther. How are we going to get jobs from the people who hire workers if the president is telling them, ‘not only are you going to have higher taxes for sure in 2013, I want to make it even worse.’ How do you grow the economy doing that? But that’s what he’s doing but it does get him a nice political rhetoric. It does get him the ability to go to the TV cameras at a press conference and say, you know, to bash the wealthy and bash the successful. The problem is what he’s doing is he’s bashing job creation.
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