Cheers, jeers for Ryan
Rep. Paul Ryan was back is back in his home district for the next two weeks holding a series of town-hall style meetings.
JANESVILLE The reception for Congressman Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” tour through Rock and Walworth counties Tuesday paralleled his brightly colored charts analyzing the nation’s fiscal crisis.
The peaks came in Delavan and Clinton, where constituents overwhelmingly stamped their approval on Ryan’s plan to cut nearly $6 trillion in federal spending over the next decade. The valleys surfaced in his hometown of Janesville, where voters questioned his previous support of Bush-era tax cuts and increases in the debt limit.
It’s all expected, Ryan said. Nobody ever said averting a budgetary disaster would be easy.
“Look, if we didn’t have a big budget problem, it wouldn’t require big solutions,” said Ryan, noting that the last time crowds at his town hall meetings reached such size was during the health care reform debate.
“I think it speaks to a sign of the times. Our country is facing some really big challenges.”
About 250 people filed into Janesville City Hall to hear Ryan’s federal spending plan, which last week passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, presented the framework for his plans to overhaul Medicare and close corporate tax loopholes that allowed companies such as General Electric to receive a $3.2 billion rebate.
That would, in turn, drive down the tax rate and raise revenue by increasing the total tax base, Ryan said. He believes his budget could bring spending down, eventually creating a surplus.
Not everyone agreed.
Patrick McDonald, a Janesville attorney, wasn’t so sure Ryan’s proposal asks everyone to share the burden.
Ryan proposes lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. The idea is to prevent jobs from being driven overseas while promoting growth and international competitiveness, he said.
McDonald called the trickle-down effect—spurring business growth to stimulate the economy—another “re-run of the old show.”
“I would like to see some of the ideas in (Barack) Obama’s proposal and maybe some of the ideas in Ryan’s proposal combined so that the people at the top are going to bear some of the pain,” McDonald said. “I’d like to see the people at the bottom not have to bear anything if we can somehow spare them.”
Ryan’s supporters watched through the presentation but joined in applause when someone praised his plan. Some even pounced on those who groaned or who interrupted Ryan as he answered questions.
“He’s like a bright light in a very, very ugly political system where nobody is telling the truth,” said Gary Knauer of Avalon. “Nobody understands where we’re at with our debt situation and what could happen to our dollar.
“I’m already hearing (Obama supporters) coming out and slamming Ryan when Ryan is the one saying, ‘If you’re in the system, we’re going to protect you and make you solvent for the future.’ We’re going to actually address the issue, not just fear-mongering.”
Ryan called Medicare the nation’s biggest driver of debt, as people are living longer coupled with the rising cost of health care. His plan ends Medicare for those born in 1957 and after, while the younger generation would be afforded the same health care options used by members of Congress.
That gives beneficiaries more options and provides greater support to those with lower income, Ryan said.
Nancy Champion of Beloit was one of about 35 people allowed into Clinton’s listening session before it was closed. The meeting was held at the village hall, and any more visitors would have created a fire hazard, officials said.
Champion said the plan was simple—cut spending and fuel prosperity. She just couldn’t understand why the rest of Washington isn’t on board.
“What’s the alternative?” said Champion, who won applause from the crowd after asking Ryan to challenge Obama in 2012.
Ryan politely declined, saying he enjoyed spending three days a week in Janesville with his family.
“The next generation is going to struggle anyways, so we got to reform (health care) now,” Champion said. “The next generation can redesign it. This is the best proposal I’ve seen.”
The future of Ryan’s budget is unclear, since it faces a slim chance of survival in the Democrat-led Senate. Ryan conceded his health care changes won’t win support from Democrats, but he’s hopeful they can come to a resolution, meshing parts of his budget with Obama’s proposal.
“We’re probably not going to get a grand-slam agreement on all our budget problems, given that health care is the biggest source of it, so let’s try to get a single or a double to get a confidence-builder in the market,” Ryan said during his stop in Clinton. “Ultimately, we’re just going to have to have a conversation in this country about which future you want.
“To me, this is nothing short of a debate about what do you want America to look like in the 21st century.”