Congressman Paul Ryan hosted listening session in Kenosha
This afternoon, Congressman Paul Ryan hosted a listening session at the Gateway Technical College’s Madrigrano Auditorium. Last week, Ryan met with Wisconsinites in Muskego, Oak Creek, and Racine. Today, he had sessions planned in Janesville, Elkhorn, and here in Kenosha.
About 200 people were in attendance. Ryan’s plan was to give his PowerPoint presentation and then allow time for questions and answers. However, some people in the audience didn’t want to hear his presentation and started rabble-rousing.
Interruptions came from more than one person, and they were chanting such sentiments as ”Jobs Now, No Cuts” and “Tax the Rich.” A total of eight people were escorted out of the auditorium after being given warnings to stop and didn’t. Police Chief Chief John Morrissey urged the audience to show the congressman the proper respect he is due. “You’re making us look like fools in Kenosha,” he said.
Ryan first went through some unemployment statistics. Wisconsin currently has an unemployment rate of 7.8%, although the unemployment rate in Southeast Wisconsin is higher than that (around 10%), versus the national rate of 9.1%. Over six million Americans have been out of work for over six months. This leads to stagnant economic growth and rising poverty.
The economic trouble in Europe is likely to be repeated here in the United States unless we “stop kicking the can down the road.” The austerity measures we’re seeing in Europe could be repeated here. Ryan said, “You can’t tax your way out of the problem.”
“The politics coming out of Washington,” he said, ”are more of the same of what we had in 2009. President Obama put forth the stimulus package back then, and wants to do the same thing now, only half as large. Back then, the total was $862 billion. His budget calls for $46 trillion of government spending over the next decade.”
“I am the Chairman of the House Budget Commitee, and we passed a budget. But, the Senate hasn’t passed a budget in over 900 days,” Ryan stated. “Right now, we are working under the 2009 budget. There are currently a dozen bills which have been passed in Congress that are waiting in the Senate for action.”
The disappointing results of the stimulus spending were discussed next. The goal of the stimulus spending was to keep the unemployment rate below 8%, but what actually happened was it increased to 10%.
“I’ve been on over 200 business tours in this district, and there is tax uncertainty on the part of small businesses. The top federal effective tax rate for small businesses is 44.8%. With the proposed surtax, it would increase to over 50%. And, when you take into consideration state and local taxes, it jumps to nearly 60%.”
One of Ryan’s slides showed that Wisconsin is a small business state. Ninety percent (90%) of small businesses file as individuals when paying their taxes. “This uncertainty leads to a chilling effect on hiring.” Add to this the regulatory uncertainty. One example Ryan gave of the 219 planned regulations estimated to adversely impact the economy was cement concrete readiness factories. These regulations will put 20% of the companies out of business, lowering the supply of concrete, forcing us to import from other countries. What happens then is that costs increase.
Another area of uncertainty is the health care law. This is another big unknown to businesses, furthering the hiring freeze.
What Ryan is proposing is a “path to prosperity.” This calls for spending restraints and reforms; fair, simple, and competitive pro-growth tax reform; a predictable, reasonable regulatory environment; patient-centered health care reform; and American energy policy; and a strengthened social safety net. Ryan believes all of this will prevent the debt from going to the “danger zone. We need to get it under control while we can.”
Click here if you’d like to view his entire presentation for yourself: Paul Ryan Listening Session – Fall 2011.
Then, Ryan opened it up for questions and answers. A question came from a kidney transplant patient who relies on Medicare and Social Security to survive. He was urging Ryan to support the President and keep things as they were. “This is the wrong way to save money. No private insurance company will pick me up due to my pre-existing condition.” Ryan told him he was wrong. “If you’re currently on Social Security and Medicare, you stay on it, no matter your age. You are grandfathered in (exempted).” Ryan also spoke of an appointed fifteen-member board who will be charged with cutting reimbursements to providers. At first, the charge was half a trillion dollars in savings to Medicare, but then they proposed a double cut in the cap.
A woman apologized to Ryan for the rude treatment he received tonight. Then she said, “Before you believe what you read, call Congressman Ryan. He always gives me the answers I need.” Her question was “How close are we to the 100% of government debt as a percentage of Gross Domestic Production (GDP)?” (which was shown on one of Ryan’s slides). Ryan’s response was ”two to five years, but closer to two.” Ryan said that we need to get rid of loopholes. The President agrees. “GE makes a lot of money, but pays no taxes. UPS is taxed at the rate of 34%, while one of their competitors is taxed at 20%. This is not a fair tax system. Companies should be taxed depending on how much money they make, not who they know in Washington. We don’t have too much time before it gets out of control.”
Another question had to do with the troops returning from Iraq. The man expressed his concern about proposed cuts taking away program aid for the military as they transition back into the workforce. Ryan agreed. ”These troops have excellent leadership skills. They will be so productive and helpful to society. I’m going back over there in a month. I don’t know what will happen with the sequester and the select committee. If the sequester doesn’t hit the $1.2 trillion in savings, then they will have to come up with a different way to get the savings. Possibly, then, the cuts will be taken from the Pentagon in 2013.”
A lady who was blind and has MS was concerned about her Medicare and Social Security being taken away. Ryan assured her that “no one is trying to take that away.” Ryan wants to subsidize people less, fix the safety net, and come up with a new tax policy. “Who benefits from tax loopholes? The top 1% get an average of $275,000 in income tax write-off’s per year.” Again, he mentioned taking away all tax loopholes and having the top income tax rate be 25%. “This would clean up the tax system and provide revenue to the government,” he said.
Another gentleman who was in his 60′s said that he has spent thirty years visiting companies. He said that he has “never seen a company working at world class level. Companies with a competitive advantage have no motivation to do it.” He proposed a different approach: “Have senior vice presidents get taxed for Social Security at the 10% level (not 6 or 7%), and allow them to lower their rate by showing that the companies they head have a competitive advantage. CEO’s don’t pay attention to the little guy and his ideas to save money. It’s because they don’t have any ’skin in the game.’” Ryan liked his idea. He said he has always been a fan of employee stock ownership programs and the “pay for performance” notion. “Linking business performance with the pay of the CEO is the way to go.”
A 25-year-old proud female army vet listed Ryan’s voting record in regards to not covering vets who return with agent orange disabilities. Ryan’s response was that she had an inaccurate description of his voting record. “I’ve always voted for VA funding bills. This is dramatically inaccurate. My staff works hard on a day-to-day basis for specific vet problems. I take a back seat to no one, and I’m proud of my record on that.”
A gentleman offered to reduce his Social Security benefit 2% for each year away from Social Security. He said that he heard Ryan speak on the Paul Kern Show about the “Making Work Pay” tax credit. Ryan said there was a difference between refundable and non-refundable tax credit. “Losing a non-refundable tax credit is a tax increase. The “Making Work Pay” tax credit expires at the end of the year, but it’s very likely that Congress will pass an extension due to its universal support.”
Another vet wanted to know why vets weren’t included in affirmative action planning. Ryan said that there were vet hiring programs. This person said that he felt that vets should be considered first. Ryan agreed. The second item of discussion this person raised had to do with the energy policy. “There are five trillion barrels of oil in Wyoming and Colorado. There are jobs in North Dakota; it’s a boom town. But, the problem is that there are no refineries to process oil. We need lower regulations so that we can build refineries, or build pipelines or expand current ones. Ryan totally agreed with this also, and is for developing new processes. Benefits would be reduced prices, less dependence on foreign oil, and about a million new jobs.
Another woman thanked Ryan for his efforts for vets. She stated that those affected by agent orange are very well taken care of. “You have helped them.” She was concerned about the fact that she and her husband have to pay about $3,000 a month for their health care insurance for themselves and their two sons because they are self-employed. “There is no releif in sight for us. Please give us some hope. We are going on 60.” Ryan said that he hated that, and he apologized. He stated that he didn’t think the new health care law would stand. ”These are legitimate problems. There should be a buying pool through the National Federation of Independent Businesses, whereby people like this family could take advantage of bigger buying power. The current tax code discriminates against people who don’t have health insurance through their employers. People in higher tax brackets get more subsidies, while people in lower tax brackets get less. This is upside down. We need to stop the CEO from getting the biggest subsidy, de-link it from the job to the person. We need to allow massive pooling and transportability of insurance. We need equal tax treatment, distribute to those who need it, get health insurance, stabilize the pool, more competition, and equal tax benefits. We need to know what the health care costs are before we get procedures done. The debt problem is the health care problem.”
The last comments came from a combat case manager who works at the VA, and she confirmed that all in-country Vietnam vets exposed to agent orange are covered. The health care problems, such as diabetes and heart issues, are covered by the VA. She also told the gentleman who made the earlier comments on hiring vets that vets have a ten-point hiring bonus on all the jobs advertised on the USAjobs.gov website. Also, vets can enter their resumes into the data base, and it will fit them to jobs based on their experience. She assured everyone that Paul Ryan does do a lot for vets. She gets letters from him on treatments, purple heart requirements, etc. He does an incredible job for them.” Ryan thanked her for validating his earlier remarks.
The meeting ended promptly at 4:30 pm.
Those who had been ousted from the meeting were lined up outside, chanting, “Paul Ryan, he’s the worst. He puts corporations first.”
Click here to check out Ryan’s website: http://paulryan.house.gov/.