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Paul Ryan To CPAC 2013: The Case For Balance

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan addressed an enthusiastic group of conservative activists during ACU’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC 2013) in the Washington, D.C. area.  The Wisconsin Congressman and former Republican Vice Presidential nominee was introduced by Al Cardenas, ACU’s President, to a standing ovation.

Chairman Ryan’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below [YouTube video also available further below]:

“Thanks, Al. I’m happy to be here. We all need a break from the mess in Washington. And CPAC is just the occasion. It’s a time to take stock, to catch up with friends, and to plan for the future. It’s also a relief to see a room full of conservatives for a change. So I’m grateful for the chance to speak with you today. Thanks again, everybody.

This has been a big week. We got white smoke from the Vatican—and a budget from the Senate. The Senate calls their budget a Foundation for Growth: Restoring the Promise of American Opportunity. Wow, I feel like saluting already. But when you read it, you find the Vatican’s not the only place blowing smoke this week. They call their budget a balanced approach. But the thing is—they never balance the budget—ever. In fact, they call for another trillion-dollar tax hike on top of even more spending.

We take the opposite approach. And I’m proud of our budget—because it’s changed the conversation. Today, we’re not talking about cliffs or ceilings or sequesters. We’re talking about solutions. That’s how it should be. Our budget expands opportunity by growing the economy. It strengthens the safety net by retooling government. It restores fairness by ending cronyism. And by setting priorities and choosing wisely, it pays off our debt. In fact, we balance the budget in just ten years—without raising taxes.

How do we do it? It’s pretty simple: We stop spending money we don’t have. Historically, we’ve paid a little less than one-fifth of our income in taxes to the federal government each year. But the government has spent a lot more. So our budget matches spending with income. We say to Washington, “What we’re willing to pay is what you’re able to spend. Period.” Every family lives within a budget. Washington should do the same.

But the crucial question isn’t how we balance the budget. It’s why. The budget is a means to an end. We’re not balancing the budget as an accounting exercise. We’re not just trying to make the numbers add up. We are trying to improve people’s lives. Our debt is a threat to our country. We have to tackle this problem before it tackles us. So today I want to make the case for balance. That case—in a nutshell—is that a balanced budget will promote a healthier economy. It will create jobs. And nothing is more urgent.

Just look at where we are—and where we’re going. Last quarter, the economy grew by a hair. Unemployment is 7.7 percent. And 46 million people are living in poverty. The President says we’re in a recovery. I’d say we’re in critical care. Farther down the road, things will get worse. By the end of 2023, the economy will be at a crawl. And we will have added $8 trillion to our debt. That debt will weigh down the country like an anchor.

In short, we’re on the verge of a debt crisis. Our obligations are growing faster than our ability to pay them. Our debt is already bigger than our economy. At some point, lenders will lose confidence in us. They will demand higher interest rates. And when they do, interest rates across the country will skyrocket—on mortgages, on credit cards, on car loans. Pressed for cash, the government probably would take the easy way out: It would crank up the printing presses. The dollar would sink. Our finances would collapse. The safety net would unravel. And the most vulnerable? They would suffer the most.

A debt crisis would be more than an economic event. It would be a moral failure. You see, by cheapening our currency, government would cheat us of our just rewards. Even now, we’re hurting working families. By living beyond our means, the government is sending a message. It’s saying, “If you plan ahead—if you make sacrifices for your kids—if you save—you’re a sucker.” It’s brazenly stealing from our children. And it has to stop.

We know what the problem is. Our economy needs growth. Our entitlements need repair. They’re creaking under the pressure of growing health-care costs and an aging population. In just ten years, spending on Medicare and Social Security will double. Spending on interest will quadruple. And no amount of taxes can prop them up. Even with the President’s tax hikes, the deficit will be nearly $1 trillion in 2023. The answer is clear: We have to fix our entitlements. And we have to grow the economy.

Our budget takes these necessary steps. But it also confronts a broader challenge. Our debt is a sign of overreach. It’s a sign the federal government is doing too much. And when government does too much, it doesn’t do anything well. We need to make this point more often: We don’t see the debt as an excuse to cut with abandon—to shirk our obligations. We see it as an opportunity to reform government—to make it leaner and more effective. So a balanced budget is a reasonable goal—because it returns government to its proper limits and focus.

When government overreaches, it doesn’t hurt just our pay checks. It also hurts our quality of life. We need to make room for community—for the vast middle ground between the government and the individual. We need to remember that people don’t find happiness in grim isolation or by government fiat. They find it through friendship—through free, vibrant exchange with people around them. They find it through achievement. They find it in their families and in their neighborhoods, in their churches and their youth groups. They find it in a healthy mix of self-fulfillment and belonging.

We belong to one country. But we also belong to thousands of communities—each of them rich in tradition. And these communities don’t obstruct our personal growth. They encourage it. They are where we live our lives. So the duty of government isn’t to displace these communities, but to support them. It isn’t to blunt their differences or to flatten their character—to mash them together into some dull conformity. It’s to secure our individual rights and to protect that diversity.

Our budget makes room for these communities to grow, so the people in them have room to thrive. But we can’t just talk about these communities. We have to talk with them. We have to engage them—because leaders don’t just speak up. They listen too. And if we listen more closely to the people, we will find that the answers to our problems lie a lot closer to home.

Let me tell you a story. Last month, I went to Milwaukee, where I met a man named Leroy Maclin. When Leroy was 14, he was convicted of a felony—and abandoned by his family. Now, he’s 27, and he’s got a job at an incredible organization called Milwaukee Working. It’s a nonprofit in the inner city started by a suburban church that sells donated goods on Amazon. No government agency built this company. No law forced these people to help each other. They came together on their own. They saw a need. And they met it.

And look at the results: Today, Leroy has turned his life around. He’s providing for his sons. And he’s an example for us all. Work gives people more than a paycheck. It gives them a sense of purpose—a sense of pride. It makes them a part of their community. It gives them the dignity we all deserve. We can’t forget this essential fact.

When we try to help struggling families, we should listen to people like Leroy—because they remind us that every life has the potential for redemption. Their example must inform our approach. And government must work with them, not against them.

But before all else, government must work. It must function—because chaos is fertile soil for liberalism. When politicians budget by crisis, what happens? They make deals in the dead of night—far away from public view. Lobbyists sneak in their pet projects. And government grows. Cronyism spreads. It crowds out our communities. And as it lurches from crisis to crisis, it freezes people in fear. In effect, we levy an uncertainty tax on everyone in the nation. We make it impossible for them to plan for the future.

Our budget offers an end to the brinkmanship. It restores regular order. We trim the federal government back to its proper size. We balance the budget. We give our communities the space they need to thrive. And we do it all out in the open—just as the Founders envisioned.

The other side can join us in this common-sense goal. Or they can choose the status quo. But they must choose. They can no longer hide behind inaction. The American people deserve an honest account of our challenges—and what’s needed to confront them.

We don’t hide our beliefs. We argue for them—because a budget is more than just a list of numbers. It’s an expression of our governing philosophy. And our budget draws a sharp contrast with the Left. It says to the people—in unmistakable terms—‘They are the party of shared hardship. We are the party of equal opportunity.’ Thank you.” [end of remarks]

Ryan’s full remarks:

Photos from CPAC 2013 are available for viewing via ACU’s Flickr account linked here.

Please note that the schedule has been announced, is updated daily and available on our new CPAC 2013 website under “Program.”

The CPAC 2013 App, produced by The Washington Examiner, can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store and Google Play. To view the HTML5 version, please click here.

Founded in 1964, the American Conservative Union (ACU) is the oldest and largest grassroots conservative organization in the nation. For almost fifty years, ACU has served as an umbrella organization harnessing the collective strength of conservative organizations fighting for Americans who are concerned with liberty, personal responsibility, traditional values, and strong national defense. ACU defines conservatism, grows conservatism, and wins for conservatism.

Contact: Laura Keehner Rigas, (202) 999-9028lrigas@conservative.org


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