Students get sneak peek at GOP budget plan
The Janesville congressman who serves as the House Budget Committee chairman met with the Craig and Parker Advanced Placement government students for 30 minutes before conducting his press conference on Capitol Hill to announce the Republican budget plan.
"It was another historic moment for the Washington Seminar program," said Joe Van Rooy, Advanced Placement teacher and director of Washington Seminar. "These are invaluable experiences made possible over the years by congressman Ryan."
Ryan told the students his plan has little, if any, chance to become law, but he felt it was his duty to propose a solution to a major problem facing the United States.
"Your future is in doubt," Ryan told the students. "Both parties have contributed to where we are now—we borrow 40 cents on every dollar, and we are in a debt crisis."
Ryan likened the economic situation to historic challenges that have faced the country such as the Civil War, the Great Depression and two world wars.
"This is a defining moment when we will determine your future," Ryan told the class. "We cannot continue to do nothing. If we don't act, we will enter into a serious economic crisis of historic proportions."
Other events Ryan planned Tuesday included an appearance on Joe Scarborough's "Morning Joe" show, a press conference to roll out the plan, and an appearance at the American Enterprise Institute.
But Ryan gave the Janesville students an early scoop on one of the budget's most expensive components—defense spending.
Craig student Adam Rieder asked Ryan how his budget deals with sequestration, an automatic $1 trillion budget-cutting plan that trims defense and discretionary spending equally.
"This budget takes a realistic approach to spending cuts," Ryan said. "Yes, we need to cut spending, but not arbitrarily. This budget forces Congress to do what it's supposed to do, and that is to make informed decisions on defense spending that do not jeopardize the lives and safety of those serving our country."
Ryan proposed to maintain current spending levels for defense in 2013 and then look at specific areas for cuts or possible spending increases made possible by additional revenue from efficiencies in other large budget items such as Medicare.
"I was pleased with the answer he gave," Rieder said. "In a way, his plan just puts off for a year the tough decisions, but I also understand the argument that we should not just make uninformed decisions on cuts until we have a better idea of how much funding we will have, what our needs are and where the money is coming from."
Immediately after Ryan's briefing on the budget, the students met with Wisconsin congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, a Madison Democrat running for the U.S. Senate. She said she had not heard Ryan's comments on the budget plan but disagreed with what she understood the plan to be.
"I believe we need to have sequestration in place or we won't ever deal with the needed defense budget cuts," she said. "If not this specific plan for cuts, some sort of mechanism to force Congress to act."
By the time the students were briefed by Sen. Herb Kohl in the afternoon, Ryan's budget plan was the top topic on Capitol Hill.
"I know Paul Ryan, and I respect him," Kohl said. "I give him credit for putting forth a plan. Unfortunately, we have such vast divisions among us today that there's little chance of compromise and, therefore, consensus on his or any other budget plan."
The Washington Seminar students are in D.C. this week to conduct field research on a variety of federal issues. They return Saturday and will begin next week to write research papers and then op-ed pieces, some of which will appear in The Gazette.
Zerban blasts Ryan proposal
The Republican House budget plan unveiled today by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan was called a "misguided handout to Wall Street" by his likely opponent in the fall election, Democrat Rob Zerban of Kenosha.
Ryan's plan calls for what he calls choices, "including a fee-for-service Medicare option and competition that forces health plans to deliver high quality at low costs." The plan allows seniors to opt for traditional Medicare coverage while providing various subsidies for those choosing to enter private plans.
Zerban said Ryan's budget "ends Medicare for our senior citizens.
"I oppose any plan that includes guaranteed Medicare benefits or creates health care vouchers," Zerban said.
Zerban also took issue with Ryan's plan to pare down the individual tax brackets to two—10 percent and 25 percent. In the past, Ryan said the higher rate probably would apply to income of $100,000 and more. He also would reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.
"Paul Ryan's 'Path to Poverty' … provides tax breaks only to Paul Ryan's campaign contributors and places the weight of making up the loss in revenue on our already struggling families," Zerban said. "His latest budget plan is designed to place the blame for his 14 years of poor decisions on the backs of our hardworking families."
Zerban criticized Ryan's budget plan for not laying out a framework for employment.
"Instead of a laser focus on creating jobs, he focused solely on removing safety nets for our most vulnerable populations," Zerban said.