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Paul Ryan Op-Ed: We’re Offering an Agenda to Empower America

February 03, 2015

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel op-ed

I decided not to run for president for a simple reason: Our economy — our country — is in jeopardy, and I have an opportunity to do something about it right where I am.

The way I see it, the American idea — that the condition of your birth doesn’t determine the outcome of your life — is fading. And there’s no better place in the House of Representatives to brighten its prospects than at the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bulk of our economic policy.

Our committee just returned from a retreat in rural Virginia, where we holed up for a couple days to develop an agenda for moving America forward. We came up with a set of solutions to spur greater economic growth and increase take-home pay.

But it’s more than that. It’s an agenda to help restore the optimism essential to the American character. And it offers a stark contrast to the static, government-centered approach the president is still offering after six long years.

As conservatives, we often get too hung up on the numbers and policy details to communicate what we’re ultimately fighting for: people — and their right to live free and chart their own course to prosperity. This agenda allows us to present a positive vision and remind the country of the principles that bind us.

We believe that a healthy economy grows from the bottom up with empowered individuals rather than top down from a heavy-handed federal government. Americans are an aspirational, dynamic people. Our policy should reflect that.

We want comprehensive reform of our tax code because it’s perhaps the best thing we can do to spur economic growth, create jobs, and increase take-home pay. But we also want a flatter and simpler system so that individuals, families, and small businesses can live and invest how they choose, rather than letting Washington pull the levers with a complex set of deductions and credits.

We want to repeal and replace Obamacare because the law drives up costs and puts government in between patients and their care. But we also want patient-centered reforms — with broad-based tax credits and a freer marketplace — so that patients can pick the plan and doctor they want, with robust competition to drive costs down and quality up.

We want to increase trade and exports because that’s a surefire way to create good-paying jobs right here in America. But we also want to break down trade barriers because we know American workers and businesses can compete with any nation. We believe in markets, and there are great big ones abroad in which American farmers and businesses can sell their products and services.

We want to save and strengthen our entitlement programs because government should keep the promises it has made. And we don’t have to make our kids pay for our retirement with their future. Security for the elderly and opportunity for the young — we can have them both.

We want to fix our safety net so that federal programs work for the sick and the poor, without trapping able-bodied Americans in poverty. We believe in the power of upward mobility and know that there are things we can do — like utilizing the Earned Income Tax Credit — that can help people move from welfare to work.

Will we get everything we want under this president? Of course not. Much of what we want to do is contradictory to the progressive view of the world.

But we can make progress — inch by inch or mile by mile. To me, any step toward a freer, more empowered American people is a step worth taking. And if our ideas largely serve as a blueprint of reform for the next president, then we will have set the groundwork for restoring the American Idea.

If we get to work now, we can get this done. We can build a healthy economy and bring back the optimism that this country was built on.

Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is a congressman from Janesville and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.