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Ryan Calls for Passage of Trade Agreements & Reflects on Unrest in Baltimore on CBS’s Face the Nation

May 03, 2015

WASHINGTON —This morning, on CBS’s Face the Nation, Wisconsin’s First District Congressman and House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) spoke with Bob Schieffer about getting beyond the violence in Baltimore and getting onto fixing the issues plaguing American cities. Congressman Ryan also made the case for trade promotion authority, which is a necessary step to securing the best trade agreements possible with European and Asian nations.

Video of Congressman Ryan’s interview is available here. Excerpts of his responses follow.

Passing TPA to get the best trade deals possible:

“We need to pass something called trade promotion authority, which empowers Congress to make sure we get the best trade agreement possible. But in a world where 95 percent of the world’s consumers live in other countries, not our country, we have to break down trade barriers so that we can have more jobs here at home, making more things in America and selling them overseas. . . .

“If you’re standing still on trade you’re losing, you’re falling behind. There were 48 trade agreements in Asia since 2000; we were a part of two of them. Only two! As a result, our share of trade in Asia has gone down 42 percent. . . .

“The rules of the global economy are being written right now, there is no question about that. The question is: Who is going to write them? Are we going to write the rules with our allies? Or is China going to write them for China’s benefit, which is not in our interest?

“Those are the kinds of things that are occurring and being decided right now. That is why we need, on a bipartisan basis, to engage on trade to make it fair, to make more jobs, to help America get ahead and to help us set the standards. And so the kind of trade agreements we’re trying to talk about here is bring other countries up to our standards so we can have a fair deal because these countries can already sell to America pretty much unrestricted. We don’t have the kind of access to their markets that they have to ours, and that’s what we’re trying to get with this trade agreement.”

 On the lessons learned from Baltimore:

Let’s try and understand the anxieties that are underneath the meaning of this. And that’s why I think all of us need to engage more as Americans in these communities where there is this anxiety, where there is this real despair. . . .

“I’ve been trying to do a version of this myself over the last number of years and you can learn a lot and I think that there is a lot to be taken. So let’s use this episode as a teaching moment. That means Americans need to engage with each other and understand and listen to different perspectives so that we can try to come together and heal and find better answers for helping solve problems like poverty.”

Restoring the American Idea for All:

“The American Idea is: the situation of your birth doesn’t determine the outcome of your life. Anybody in this country can overcome their current circumstances and make a better life for themselves and their kids. We were taught to believe that. We believe that. But there are a lot of people who don’t believe that. I think that’s one of the lessons you get from Baltimore. . . .

“We have an obligation to make sure that we can make sure that those ideals are experienced and expressed and realized in the hearts of America that aren’t seeing that. And so this should not be an electoral issue. This should be a fix for America’s poverty trap and I really believe we’re on the cusp of this. I really believe the country is ripe for this. We just had a hearing at the Ways and Means Committee yesterday on this issue and it was very exciting because we had Republicans and Democrats agreeing that the status quo isn’t working and we are listening from people fighting poverty in their communities and they are telling us how they’re doing a good job of doing it and how we can help them do more it.

“That’s the kind of dynamic and thing we need to do. It shouldn’t be about getting votes, it should be about saving lives.”

Finding Inspiration from Poverty-Fighters across America:

“There are incredible stories of redemption going on right now under our noses in the poorest communities in America that are just absolutely jaw-dropping and inspiring, and there is a lot we can learn from that. There’s a mini-series called ‘Comeback’  on that you can watch to see these stories. And what these stories in my judgment are, are the classic American principles being applied to the problems of the day producing real solutions getting people out of poverty.

“And so what I thought was after a 50 year war on poverty and trillions of dollars spent, we still have the same poverty rates. There are still 45 million people in poverty so I think what we as a country – and this isn’t a Republican-Democrat thing – it’s we as a country need to say: ‘That’s not good enough. We’re not getting the results we need. What do we need to do to get results?’

“And I think the best thing we can do is go listen to people who are fighting poverty right now, and especially those who are overcoming it.”

Rethinking the Federal Government’s Role in Fighting Poverty:

“What the federal government is good at doing is providing resources. What the federal government is bad at doing is dictating solutions. And so, what we have done at the federal government is we have measured success based on inputs – how much money are we spending, how many programs are we creating, how many people are on the programs – rather than measuring success based on results, outcomes, how many people we’re actually getting off of poverty. And what I think the federal government has done is displaced local problem-solving with top-down, one-size-fits-all, and it’s not working.

“We need to go to an outcome-based approach and rework our poverty fighting strategies, overhaul our poverty fighting strategies to focus on results and outcomes, and that means listening to people on the ground fighting poverty.”