OTR Interviews

Ryan: GOP Is Not Trying to Shut Down the Government, We're Trying to Save Money

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 29, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: April 8th -- that's the deadline, the deadline for Republicans and Democrats to reach a deal on federal funding for the reminder of the year. Now, what happens if they don't reach a deal? The government shuts down. Lawmakers have passed six short-term spending bills, but the next one expires in less than two weeks. So can both sides meet the deadline?

Congressman Paul Ryan joins us. Congressman, nice to see you. And actually, there are two issues on the table with you. One is the long term-budget, which you're going to unveil...

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS.: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... in about a week or two, and also the short-term, until September 30th. Any bets on whether we're going to shut down between now and September 30th, the first one?

RYAN: Well, it's been 38 days since we passed our bill in the House preventing a government shutdown, cutting spending. The Senate has yet to do that. They have passed nothing to try and prevent a government shutdown or to get any spending savings. So we have yet to see any serious action from the Senate to try and prevent a shutdown.

We are not trying to shut down the government, we're trying to save money. We're trying to cut spending. And we really don't see any sincere efforts on their half to fix this. So it -- like Lindsey said a second ago, you know, it looks like they might be aiming for a government shutdown. That's not our intention. Our intention is to cut spending and save some money.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let's do long-term. You're going to unveil your debt, so -- I mean, unveil your budget.

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: Not the debt. We got the debt! Unveil your budget, which...

RYAN: We got a lot of debt! We don't need more that!

VAN SUSTEREN: You got plenty of -- what are you going to do?

RYAN: We're going to cut spending. We're going to reform entitlements, which are the big drivers of our debt, and we're going to...

VAN SUSTEREN: So who's going to -- who's going to get hit?

RYAN: Look, the way -- next week, you'll see. But the point I want to make is the sooner you tackle our fiscal problems in America, the better off we are all going to be. We are going to present a plan for prosperity, for economic growth, for job creation, for getting spending under control and reforming the drivers of our debt so that not only do our children and grandchildren inherit a better country and a higher standard of living, but get jobs going right now.

If we don't preempt the debt crisis, then we will have painful European-like austerity -- benefit cuts to current seniors, tax increases on everybody that slows down the economy. That's what we're trying to prevent from happening. We want gradual reforms that protect seniors, people in and near retirement, from any changes, and we want government right so we don't have this tidal wave of debt that's coming, which is the most predictable economic crisis we've ever had in this country. We want to preempt it, and that takes leadership. The president hasn't led. We're going to.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, one of your charts that you gave us, it says, What drives our debt? And we have to put it up on the screen for the viewers.

RYAN: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: But we look at in terms of, you know, the impact of what we spend on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. If that's such a huge portion of what drives our debt, something's got to get cut out of that.

RYAN: Those three programs right there, when my children are my age, consume all federal revenues. You know, why is it? It's basically a couple of things. Demographics -- we're going from 40 million retirees to 80 million retirees when the Baby Boomers retire. And health care costs -- health care inflation goes up about 7 percent a year, two to three times the rate of economic growth and inflation. So those three programs...

VAN SUSTEREN: How are you going to do it?

RYAN: ... right there are consuming it. So next week, we'll lay out a specific plan for how we propose to do it. But the point I want to make is, if we reform these programs now, we can do it gradually and prospectively. No changes for anybody in, near retirement. So those like my mom and your parents, who are good Wisconsinites who are on these programs, they don't see changes in their benefits.

But for younger people, like us and the X generation, we will have to have reforms of these programs, one, so they're actually there when we retire, so they're sustainable, so they're solvent, but number two, so we preempt the debt crisis.

VAN SUSTEREN: So if I can...

RYAN: So we stop this crowding out of all this spending.

VAN SUSTEREN: So if I get this right, then what you anticipate -- and I realize it's still a work in progress...

RYAN: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... is that for people over a certain age, is that they'll still have their Social Security and their health care as...

RYAN: Everybody will still have Social Security in my plan.

VAN SUSTEREN: But that what it's going to do, it's going to -- it's - - the people under that age are -- their futures are going to be reformed and restructured.

RYAN: We'll have to reform these programs to save these program. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, they're all going bankrupt. They'll all facing looming insolvency, and that's according to the trustees. So you got to reform these programs if you want to save these programs. And we want to save these programs so there's something we can actually count on as younger people. But more importantly, these are the big drivers of our debt and we don't want to give this country a debt crisis.

VAN SUSTEREN: If I understand this correctly, then, is that, you know, if you're not going to touch anybody who's receiving benefits and it's, like -- so -- so you're going to reform or restructure for those who intend to receive it in the future, is they're not going to feel any change...

RYAN: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... in the immediate, so that no one's going to feel any change...

RYAN: That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... under your program.

RYAN: And that's my point. My point is, if we tackle these challenges now, we can do it very gradually. We can do it on our own terms. And we can do it in a phased-in way. If you kick the can down the road and if you keep delaying and procrastinating, then it's bitter and it's awful for everybody. Everybody gets cut. That's what we want to avoid.

Every year we delay fixing this problem, we go about $10 trillion in the hole of more unfunded promises that Washington is making to people. We got to start talking honestly with people. We need fact-based budgeting and we need honest budgets. And we got to give the country a plan to prevent -- preempt a big debt crisis. And that's why I'm saying do it now. You're going to have economic growth. You're going to prosperity. It's gradual. It's phased in. Kick the can down the road, go trillions of dollars deeper into debt, and then everybody starts getting hurt, and that's what we want to avoid.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you talked to any of the Democrats and given them sort of an idea of where it's going? And do you get a sense that they think, Well, that might be a pretty good idea, I'd like to join on? Or is...

RYAN: I do. I talk to Blue Dogs.

VAN SUSTEREN: Or is the line drawn in the sand?

RYAN: Well, I talk to Blue Dog Democrats in the House.

VAN SUSTEREN: The conservative ones.

RYAN: The conservative Democrats. And they -- I think they see the same thing. They see -- look, we all see these numbers. I mean, all the independent fiscal authorities are telling us this thing's getting out of control. And so I do talk to conscientious Blue Dog Democrats, who I think see it our way. The question is, is whether or not they're willing to break party ranks or not, and I don't know the answer to that.

VAN SUSTEREN: And the Senate -- we don't know what's going to happen in the Senate.

RYAN: They don't really talk to us.

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: They don't like you, right? Anyway, Congressman, thank you. Always nice to see you, Congressman Paul Ryan, from the great state of Wisconsin...

RYAN: Of Wisconsin.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... I might add. I might add. They didn't do too well in basketball the other night.

RYAN: No.

VAN SUSTEREN: But anyway, who's counting?

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Next year. Next year. Anyway, thank you.