Ryan reiterates US debt crisis warnings at Janesville listening session

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Saturday, May 5, 2012
— Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., repeated his warnings about the U.S. debt crisis while meeting with constituents Friday, but his opponent in the November election said Ryan is part of the problem.

About 130 people attended a listening session with their congressman at the Holiday Inn Express.

Ryan stayed away from overt politicking and spent a lot of time with his usual slide show and message.

Ryan’s message is that the United States is headed for a European-style debt crisis, and if the government doesn’t take action, today’s children will have to pay off the debt while suffering across-the-board cuts in social programs.

The campaign of Ryan’s only known challenger, Democrat Rob Zerban, was asked for a response and issued a statement accusing “career politicians like Paul Ryan” for economic woes, saying Ryan voted for “two unfunded wars and the Bush tax cuts to millionaires.”

Zerban said he would focus on helping local businesses with “the training, support and funding they need to revive this economy.”

Zerban said he would end “the wasteful Bush tax breaks for the wealthy.”

Ryan said at the listening session that increased taxes can never catch up to the country’s ballooning debt.

A few men and women outside the Holiday Inn Express carried signs objecting to Republican political positions, and one tea party demonstrator showed up, as well.

Ryan fielded the Ayn Rand question, saying he does not adore the political theorist and author of “Atlas Shrugged” as some suggest.

Aaron Aegerter of Janesville said Rand was a foundation of Ryan’s political philosophy and that she was “an outspoken atheist, said altruism is evil, supported abortion and condemned Christianity for advocating compassion for the poor.”

Ryan said the accusation is an “urban legend.” He said he, like many others, read “Atlas Shrugged” when he was young.

The book inspired him to shift his career goals from medicine to economics, and it was “a great book,” Ryan said.

“Just because you like someone’s novels doesn’t mean you agree with their entire world-view philosophy, and she has a world-view philosophy which is completely antithetical to mine. She is an atheist philosopher. So just because you like a person’s novel on economic freedom and liberty doesn’t mean you are an atheist. That’s really kind of ridiculous.”

Another audience member asked if Ryan has a problem with atheists, and he said no, but he doesn’t agree with it.

Aegerter tried to follow up, questioning Ryan’s “honesty,” Ryan moved on to the next questioner.

Ryan admonished another questioner to stay away from 24-hour TV news channels.

“They just get you so wound up,” he said, criticizing what passes for “breaking news” these days.

“Read a book, relax a little bit. Don’t watch this stuff every day. At home, we try to tone that stuff down,” Ryan said.

Ryan went on to answer a question about illegal immigration, saying lawmakers should try a piecemeal approach to solving border security instead of trying to pass a package of reforms that is bound to attract too much opposition.

Ryan also:

-- Said he hadn’t considered TV ads or other strategies to ward off Zerban in the fall. “I’m busy doing my job right now. I haven’t thought about what kind of campaign we’re going to run,” he said.

-- When asked what would be a better job—vice president or treasury secretary, he said: “I haven’t given any thought to that one, either. You think I’m going to answer that one?”

-- Spoke in favor of oil and gas drilling in Alaska and off shore and the Keystone Pipeline project, saying the United States could increase production and lower prices to consumers.

-- Responded to a question about his statement about Catholic theology, which he said informed his approach to the country’s problems. Some theologians have said his proposed cuts to social welfare programs are a rejection of Biblical teachings about feeding and clothing the poor.

“People of good will can disagree,” Ryan said, maintaining that the budget he wrote is all about getting the economy growing and getting people back to work.

“And let’s have poverty-fighting policies that actually work. The poverty rates in America are the highest they’ve been in a generation, so our current policies aren’t working. So we need to come up with ideas that get people back onto a path of upward mobility,” he said.

-- Said campaign-finance reforms have not worked. He said one solution is to allow free speech while increasing transparency about the identity of donors. He said political parties are more accountable and so should be supported and that less money should be sent to Washington, D.C., so there would be less incentive for special interests to try to get their hands on that money.

-- Said if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, it would trigger a Middle East arms race. He did not say what should be done about that.

Last updated: 8:39 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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