“Speaking candidly, as one citizen to another: We still have time . . . but not much time. If we continue down our current path, we know what our future will be.”
So says Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) in the official Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, a speech both practical and philosophical, one that clearly demarks a vision of government quite different than the White House’s but which contains barely any mention of the entitlement-reform proposals that have been the focus of Democratic attacks in advance of the address.
Ryan starts by extending a number of olive branches to President Obama. He praises the president for speaking “movingly” at a memorial for Tucson shooting victims, and says some of his remarks on the economy in the State of the Union are “reassuring.” He stresses that Republicans “want to work with the president to restrain fiscal spending,” and spreads the blame for country’s current fiscal straits, calling the debt “the product of many presidents and many Congresses over many years.”
Perhaps most notably, he straightforwardly acknowledges what has long been a favorite Obama-administration talking point: that President Obama “came into office facing a severe fiscal and economic situation.”
But he quickly shifts to challenging the president’s response to the crisis, accusing him of engaging in a “stimulus spending spree” that failed to deliver job creation and plunged the nation deeper into debt.
He calls out Obama for dubbing his spending increases for 84 percent of domestic government agencies over the last two years “investments,” even as unemployment remains above 9 percent and the debt has ballooned an additional $3 trillion.
Ryan also assails the administration for the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which he says has already resulted in higher health-care costs and insurance premiums, and loss of coverage for millions of Americans, even as its raft of new taxes and penalties stifle job creation. He reiterates the GOP pledge to replace the Affordable Care Act with “fiscally responsible, patient-centered reforms,” but offers few details.
Turning to the budget, Ryan gets philosophical, saying spending debates “are not just about the programs of government; they’re also about the purpose of government.” He says the GOP is guided by the principles of the Declaration and the Constitution, and “the wisdom of the founders.” He then gives a précis:
We believe government’s role is both vital and limited – to defend the nation from attack and provide for the common defense … to secure our borders… to protect innocent life… to uphold our laws and Constitutional rights … to ensure domestic tranquility and equal opportunity … and to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves.
We believe that the government has an important role to create the conditions that promote entrepreneurship, upward mobility, and individual responsibility.
We believe, as our founders did, that “the pursuit of happiness” depends upon individual liberty; and individual liberty requires limited government.
He contrasts these beliefs with those of Democrats in Congress and the White House, who “by their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much; taxes too much; and spends too much in order to do too much.”
He expresses worry that the future will turn “our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.”
He speaks of the need to “reclaim our American system of limited government, low taxes, reasonable regulations, and sound money” so that we may “pass on to our children a nation that is stronger, more vibrant, more decent, and better than the one we inherited.”