OTR Interviews

Ryan: If We Don't Fix the Economy Now, the Next Generation Will Get a 'Diminished Country'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 17, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, it's a real possibility. The federal government could get shut down in just two weeks. Why? Well, we have no budget. Republicans are demanding deeper budget cuts and Democrats are simply not caving. Will they compromise, or is the line drawn way too deep in the sand? Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan goes "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, nice to see you.

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS.: Hey, great to be back with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you've got a new office, and I can't help but notice over your right shoulder, you have positioned the Green Bay Packer helmet. Any reason?

RYAN: You're here.


RYAN: I have my Paul Hornung-Vince Lombardi poster right outside of your camera shot, though, so -- we got a lot of Packer paraphernalia here.

VAN SUSTEREN: I bet, especially after two weeks ago. All right, speaking of Wisconsin, there's a lot of activity back in our home state, in Madison, protests. They sent out for the Democratic members of the assembly to -- or the senate to come -- come vote. What are your thoughts about what's going on?

RYAN: Our governor, Scott Walker, is trying to fix these problems before they get out of control. If we want in Wisconsin, a good business climate, we have to get at the runaway spending. We are break in Wisconsin.

He's trying to go to the drivers of our government spending, and that is our public employees have benefit packages far in excess of what their private sector counterparts have. And what he's asking contributions, about half. Health care would be half of what the federal workers pay.

VAN SUSTEREN: Isn't the fact that there are protests sort of an instructive, maybe it would be a good idea to cut everybody across the board? Whether in Washington, take a number, 10 percent, picking and choosing is what pits everybody against everybody, everyone has a special program.

RYAN: There's a point to that. Some have seen huge spending increases. In Wisconsin across the board the public employs have not been contributing anything to pension or health care, but everybody else in Wisconsin is doing that, across the board isn't that fair.

Here in Washington, we are looking at government spending programs that double and triple digit spending increases, some programs didn't. Over the last two years.

VAN SUSTEREN: What if we were to go back two years?

RYAN: That's what we are doing now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Everyone is going to squawk and complain.

RYAN: So what happened, President Obama raised domestic discretionary spending, spending on government agency budgets, 24 percent over last two years, stimulus on top, an 84 percent increase in government agency budgets. We are trying to pull that back.

We want to go back 24 percent lower back to where spending was pre-bailout levels for the rest of this fiscal year. That's what we are doing on the floor here today in Congress.

VAN SUSTEREN: You said you were disappointed in President Obama.

RYAN: Deeply disappointed.

VAN SUSTEREN: Even the "Washington Post" has gone after his budget saying there are gimmicks. Why do you think he has his budget as it is?

RYAN: Good question. There are two schools of thought on this. One, he dislikes the size of government he's got now and wants to hang on to the gains he's got the last two years.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's the bad motive.

RYAN: I don't want to ascribe motives, but that's the theory here. The other one is he just chose not to lead on getting this debt and deficit under control and he's going to wait for Republicans to do something and then beat us up if and when we do that.

I don't care what his motive is. What I don't like is the results. He adds $13 trillion to the debt. More debt will accumulate under his presidency than all prior presidents combined. If we don't get this deficit and debt under control it hurts our economy and job creation. Deficit reduction, debt reduction means job creation.

When you go on a big deficit like now that means more tax and interest rate increases tomorrow. Where he has fallen down on leading on this, even the "Washington Post" said he punted and ducked from his responsibilities. We are going to provide leadership and show the country how we think we ought to deal with this out of control spending. With this deficit and debt so we can get job creation back in this country.

VAN SUSTEREN: When you do your budget come spring, Social Security, some of my viewers are upset when it is referred to as entitlement. They say we paid in. It is hardly an entitlement, it is my money is the theory. What do you intend to do about Social Security in your budget?

RYAN: Social Security is not a big driver of our problems, it is health care. Social Security in and of itself is going insolvent. Something has to be done to make it solvent.

There is not a plan in Congress that anybody has introduced that I know of that cuts security benefits for anybody in or near retirement. So if anything is done to make Social Security more solvent, it will not affect people who are over 55, who have already retired. The question is are we going to do things to prevent them from going bankrupt so we people in the younger generation can have program we can count on. The other programs are the big drivers of our debt.

VAN SUSTEREN: If health care is one, then I guess it does make a difference for the Supreme Court to get off the bench and make a decision one way or the other so planning can be done whether constitutional or not so efforts can be made to figure out the budget to meet our nation's demands.

RYAN: If we don't get the debt control, we go 10 trillion deeper in the hole every year we delay fixing this problem. They are telling us, our unfunded liabilities, and this is a weird number, about $88.6 trillion.

So we know the next generation will get a diminished country with lower living standards if we don't fix this. If we don't get this under control now, our economy is going to suffer. If we fix these problems now we can prevent problems from hitting people who have already retired. In order to make these programs solvent you have to reform them. Give our kids and grandkids a better future.