Transcript: Rep. Paul Ryan on 'FNS'

The following is a rush transcript of the June 21, 2009, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: We began a new series here a few weeks ago called "Right Now" to take a look at the future of the Republican Party and talk to its new leaders, and there's no better example than our guest today, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.

He's a strong economic conservative and a leading voice on budget issues, and he's been called a rising star so often, it probably embarrasses him.

Congressman, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS.: Thanks. Happy Father's Day, Chris.

WALLACE: Thank you. Same to you. Let's start with an overview. Where do you think President Obama is taking this country?

RYAN: Well, I think if you take a look at all of the things he's trying to do just in the first six months — the budget that doubles and triples our national debt, this new health energy tax — health care tax, energy tax — I think the president is giving us an agenda that takes the American ideal of promoting equal opportunity in people's lives and replaces it with more of a European notion of having the government more involved in our lives and equalizing the results of people's lives.

And what I worry — at the end of the day here — is just in a few short years he's going to set the trajectory of the 21st century — one where we basically have a European-like welfare state.

And that — the problem with that is it takes people and it limits them from being able to reach their potential. It drains them from their ability and incentive to make the most of their lives and loads them into lives of complacency and dependency on the government.

And that really isn't who we are as a federal government. And that is why we as Republicans must offer spirited alternatives and better ideas.

WALLACE: All right. Let's look, though, at some specific policies that you seem to object to in principle but haven't always in particular.

You voted for the original $700 billion financial bailout plan, although you opposed releasing the second half. The major banks didn't collapse. Credit markets have eased. And just this last week, some of the major banks repaid more than $60 billion in their federal bailout.

So in fact, didn't that help us prevent an economic collapse?

RYAN: No, I agree. I still think that was the right vote to take at that time. I think we were on the verge of an economic meltdown. This was a once-in-a-generation kind of a crisis, and I do believe the TARP was necessary.

What bothers me is the way the TARP was deployed afterwards. The whole idea here was to go get these toxic assets to free up credit. What happened? Starting with the last administration, is we started buying banks. And now we've gone outside of the financial credit markets to owning auto companies.

This is why I and all other Republicans didn't support the second half of the TARP. But I do believe at that time we had an extraordinary moment that had to be met.

WALLACE: All right. Let's talk about the auto companies and the bailout there. Chrysler has sped through bankruptcy court. It looks like it's going to remain a viable company, maybe on a smaller scale, but something of a viable company.

You lobbied G.M. to reopen a plant that they had...

RYAN: Sure.

WALLACE: ... closed in Wisconsin. Would you really have let the — if you were running the federal government, would you really have let these auto companies go under?

RYAN: G.M. was going into bankruptcy. They are already now going into bankruptcy. The only difference is we've now committed $87 billion of taxpayer funding to just two auto companies.

I would have done this before committing the $87 billion of funding to these auto companies.

WALLACE: And you don't think that what we have done — and again, it was started by the Bush administration...

RYAN: Right.

WALLACE: ... eased the pain and has softened the landing of these companies?

RYAN: No, I think we've just now gone into the inevitable bankruptcy of these corporations, and now we've committed tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars, but also we've set a precedence.

We have set here a precedence of industrial policy, of what I would call crony capitalism, of where you have the government now meddling in the affairs of private enterprise. And what about Ford? What about all these other companies that are not getting this kind of government taxpayer financing?

And so I worry we're committing a dangerous precedence where preferred companies that become too big to fail get access to cheaper money from the federal government and their competitors don't, and so we're stacking the deck and we're putting a lot of the problems into the free market season.

So I do believe that the TARP went way beyond its original intent, which is free up credit, buy toxic assets. Now we're buying stock and we're going outside of the financial system.

And that is why I think they have deployed TARP in the wrong way, and not just the Obama administration. I think the Bush administration got it off to a bad start as well.

WALLACE: Let's turn to health care reform. Can your party stop Democrats from the kind of major overhaul that President Obama and the leading Democrats are talking about? And is there a possible compromise here? Is there a confluence of interest between what the president wants and what you and other Republicans want?

RYAN: I hope so. I hope there is a kind of a compromise. But what the president wants and what his leaders in Congress are telling us is they don't want bipartisanship.

My favorite Democrat in Congress, Jim Cooper, has told us his party says don't work with Republicans. Chairman Dodd has told us he doesn't want bipartisanship.

So the kind of health care reform that the president and his party are trying to push is the kind of health care reform where the government ends up taking the entire system over.

WALLACE: Well, in fairness...

RYAN: We don't want to be part of that.

WALLACE: ... wait, wait, that's not what they say.

RYAN: I know it's not what they say.

WALLACE: They say they want a government plan that would compete with — on a level playing field — and I can see you laughing already — but compete on a level playing field and offer real competition, and it would help get the private insurers to clean up their act.

RYAN: With 1,300 private insurers. Let me put it this way. Having the government compete against the private sector — it's kind of like my 7-year-old daughter's lemonade stand competing against McDonald's.

It's the government being the referee and player in the same game. Don't just listen to me. Listen to all the actuaries — and the actuaries — that tell us that the government public plan option quickly becomes a government-run monopoly.

What happens is it is impossible for the private sector to be able to compete fairly with the public sector. And what ends up happening is that the public sector plan pays so much lower prices that it drives prices up for the private sector and it forces firms to dump their employees under the public plan.

One firm, the Lewin Group, is telling us as many as 120 million Americans in about three or four years will lose their private insurance and be dumped onto the public plan option. That's not what we want to see happen.

WALLACE: Let's turn to the GOP. I want to put up a recent poll by the Pew research center, and let's put it up on the screen. Forty- two percent say they approve of the job Democratic leaders in Congress are doing, while 45 percent disapprove.

But when it comes to Republicans, 29 percent approve while 56 percent disapprove. Why is your party in such disfavor?

RYAN: We definitely have our work cut out for us.

WALLACE: And what — why is it in such disfavor, and what should you do about it?

RYAN: A couple of things. I think we stumbled in the past. We stumbled in the area of fiscal responsibility. I fought against earmarks and for entitlement reform, but we stumbled in those areas, and now the Democrats are repeating the same mistakes we made as Republicans.

We should do two things in the minority. Because we don't have the votes to stop such things, we need to do two things — expose the facts and give the American people a choice with better ideas.

Take those principles that we believe in that built this country — freedom, liberty, self-determination, free enterprise — and apply them to the problems of the day and go to the American people with an alternative.

We've had too many elections recently where we've muddied the differences. We need to give the American people a very clear pathway that maintains this American ideal of equal opportunity, of giving people a chance to reach the most potential in their lives. And that is not what we have done lately. So I think...

WALLACE: I mean, but forgive me, Congressman, those are nice words, and I think everybody would agree with it. What does that mean in a practical sense? How do you tell the economically distressed family in Janesville, Wisconsin why the Republican Party's going to be better for them than the Democrats?

RYAN: So on the big issues of the day, we have to put up alternatives, which we have been doing — on stimulus, on the budget, on energy, on health care. Each of these big issues...

WALLACE: Well, you did a budget...

RYAN: ... we put out...

WALLACE: ... and it kind of got laughed out because there were no numbers on it.

RYAN: No, that's not true. That's a marketing document that was put out by the House Republican Conference. We put a very specific budget out that had all the numbers in it that said here is how you get our debt under control, our taxes under control, and our spending under control. And we put a real budget on the floor of Congress.

So there's a misperception out there that we didn't put a budget out there. We did.

The point I'm trying to make, Chris, is in order for us to get back in favor of the American people, we have to be able to connect the policies of this administration and this Congress with the rhetoric, which — right now there's a huge gap between the two. And then we have to go to the American people with better ideas.

WALLACE: Let's talk about Paul Ryan. Some Republicans say that you are this generation's Jack Kemp — big tent, pro-growth, happy warrior, conservative. How do you plead?

RYAN: I would love to be anything close to being compared with Jack Kemp. Jack Kemp — I worked for Jack Kemp in the '90s. He was my mentor. He's probably the reason I'm in politics.

I think the kind of spirited optimism that Jack had and the principles he applied are really what sort of shaped me in how I conduct myself these days.

WALLACE: What about the culture war over social issues? You are pro- life, but you don't focus on it.

RYAN: Well, look. I think the problems we have right now are we going to dip into a social welfare state or are we going to keep the American ideal of limited government and free enterprise. That, to me, is a huge challenge we have right now.

And this notion that we have to pick either social conservatism or economic conservatism is a faulty premise. They come from the same root. And so what I think we ought to do is go back to those principles that built our country and give the American people an inclusive agenda that is big tent.

We don't have to have a litmus test that you have to satisfy these 13 things if we want to let you in our party.

WALLACE: And finally — and please don't give me the Sunday talk show answer — the problem with a rising star is at some point you've got to rise. You've got to arrive.

RYAN: Yeah. Right.

WALLACE: What are your personal ambitions? Speaker Ryan? President Ryan?

RYAN: I don't — my ambitions don't go that far. I have two higher ambitions right now — number one, be the best husband I can be and be the best father I can be, and then work to save my country and advance my principles as a representative of the 1st Congressional District. That's the way these things are organized in my mind.

So I'm not one of these people who are just simply looking at the next big job I can get. I'm looking at the direction of our country, the policies I want to pursue, and I want to make sure I'm a good dad and a good husband.

WALLACE: Which is an appropriate message for Father's Day. Congressman Ryan, thank you so much for joining us. Please come back, sir.

RYAN: Thanks, Chris.

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