By: AIF Staff
Washington, DC – Last weekend, American Idea Foundation President and former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan joined The Armstrong Williams Show for a wide-ranging conversation about President Biden’s economic agenda, the importance of standing for democracy and our Founding principles, and the need to help Americans rise out of poverty.
Excerpts of Speaker Ryan’s responses follow.
“Let’s not think that Washington solves every problem. Let’s remember we ourselves in our communities, in our churches, in our civic institutions and our local governments, that’s really where we live our lives. That’s really where we need to reinvigorate our activities.”
Using evidence & data to expand upward mobility:
“One of the last things I did as House Speaker of the House was pass a law called the Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, which to make a long story short, we can now look at data, real data on federal poverty programs and on education programs at the federal, state and private sector levels, and we can find out what works and what doesn’t.
In education, it’s become really clear what works and what doesn’t work. The problem is entrenched special interests are preventing us from going with what works, but it’s not for lack of knowing. So, the good news and this is a good news, bad news story is we’re developing the ability to measure effective policies focused on getting kids off the streets, getting good educations in every corner of this country, restarting upper mobility and getting people out of poverty.
“This is what we spend our time on at my Foundation. We are learning what works and what doesn’t work. The question is: Do policymakers follow the data and do local governments, state governments and federal governments put the money into ideas, policies, and reforms that are proven to work or do they keep paying for status quo policies? That’s the question.”
On the stress tests facing our democracy & the global response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:
“I think our democracy is being tested internally and externally. These are the big 21st century tests that we have to go through. I think we’ll get through them, but they are tests.
You can look at specific instances in recent history and show where democracy works. Internationally, democracy in Ukraine is working, and I like to look at the glass of life as being half-full, not half-empty but we’ve got some pretty strong tests coming in front of us. And you know, that’s going to be the big challenge in the 21st century: Democracy versus authoritarianism. I think this is the classic struggle in the 21st century….
I think Putin thought he could get away with it… and that the democracies were too self-absorbed and too polarized to do anything about it. [He thought] NATO was past its prime. After he invaded, what happened?
Democracy completely came unified to Ukraine’s defense. NATO is expanding and Finland and Sweden are joining NATO. The point I would make is: Democracy will push back when it’s back is against the wall. When free people are faced with an existential challenge to their freedom, they’re going to be the most powerful force in humankind.”
Assessing Biden’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:
“I actually think President Biden’s done pretty well on this. I mean, here and there I would have done things differently. I would have been faster on weapons deployment and the rest but I think he’s done a pretty good job, all things considered.
What he has done is he’s built a very good coalition, particularly after getting the Germans and French to give up their oil and gas to the extent they have. It’s a pretty impressive accomplishment. So, he’s built a pretty good international coalition of democracies. That’s been good.
He’s gotten through Congress good packages that are helping the Ukrainians defend themselves and keep their civil society and the government going… I would have done a few things differently, but generally speaking, I think they’ve handled it pretty well.”
Congress is working & bipartisan opportunities for pro-growth reforms exist:
“We had one of the most productive sessions of the legislature since Reagan’s first term and of all those bills we passed, about 80% of those bills were bipartisan and got big bipartisan votes. We attacked the opioid epidemic. We worked on getting cures for cancer. We overhauled the way the Veterans Administration works. We did criminal justice reform. You name the issue, we probably tackled it. And then there were things we did on our own, like tax reform, which was a big accomplishment and achievement of my own that I’ve worked on for 20 years as a Ways and Means Committee member. That was a huge collaboration with other Republicans.
But if you look at all those bills that passed in that term, which you would think was a pretty controversial time, over 80% of them were bipartisan. A lot of what happens in Congress is under the radar. Bipartisan bills that get passed, that fix a lot of problems, and that are very overwhelmingly bipartisan, they get no attention. And so, it doesn’t surprise me that the average member of the public who’s not spending their day watching Congress thinks it’s always fighting and it’s always terrible and It’s all polarization with nothing getting done. When in fact, there’s a lot of stuff that does happen.”
Divided government means predictability and non-inflationary policies:
“My biggest fear is they’re going to pass this Build Back Better Bill, which is very bad for inflation. All that bill will do is make American businesses less competitive. It will slow down economic growth and cost us jobs and crank up prices and inflation with all that spending. So, [the Biden Administration has] bad tax policy that puts Americans at a competitive disadvantage and has really inflationary spending policies.
Divided government is going to give us the ability to make sure that that doesn’t continue to happen… In this case, divided government is a good thing because divided government will give us predictability that we won’t put bad policies in place. We won’t pour gas on the inflation fire.
In this case, divided government is a good thing and it gives us stable, predictable government. Because when we get — and I think we will get, the majority in the House of Representatives and I think we have a really good chance to get the majority in the Senate, that means we’re not going to go off to the left and I think that’s going to be good for the economy.”