Transcript: Remarks by GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan at the 2012 AARP Expo

Transcript of remarks by Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan at the AARP Expo in New Orleans on Sept. 21, 2012:

“I appreciate the introduction and this chance to be with you here in New Orleans.

“You’ve had a busy convention. And I know that many of you also made time yesterday to volunteer around this great city. It was very much in a spirit of a group whose model calls members to the service of others.

“It was also very much in the spirit of this generous country. This country honors those who serve.

“And we have set aside today – as a nation – to remember those men and women in uniform who are taken as prisoners of war or went missing in action, to honor those who have endured this hardship, and remember those who remain missing. I’d like to begin with a moment of silent prayer, if you will.

“I thank you for that. And thank you for your kind hospitality this morning.

“Life at 50 plus. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m told that can happen before you know it.

“I’m a little more focused these days on my 40s and in particular on the next 4 years.

“But I have given a good deal of thought to later seasons in life. Not just as someone with his own family to look after but as someone with public responsibilities as well.

“Many in Washington who held office long before I came along made some big and fundamental commitments. It will fall on my generation to make sure that those commitments are kept.

“The challenges would be enormous under any circumstances; they are even tougher in a bad economy.

“Many Americans over 50 are wondering, ‘Will I lose my job before I’m ready to retire?’ ‘Will the health and retirement security programs I’ve been counting on be there for me?’ ‘What will happen to my savings if the value of the dollar keeps going down?’ ‘What kind of nation are we leaving to our kids?’

“You’re right to ask these questions. You’re right to worry. The years of empty promises by both political parties are threatening the security of your golden years and your right to demand honest answers from those who are asking for your vote.

“Mitt Romney and I share your concerns, and we respect you enough to level with you. We respect all the people in this country enough to talk about the clear choices we face on Medicare, Social Security, the economy and the kind of country our children will inherit.

“I warn you ahead of time: these are very serious challenges. Sometimes the math can be a little bit overwhelming.

“Well, let’s just start with some simple subtractions. 2012 minus 50. If you’re turning 50 this year, you were born in 1962. The dawn of a new American era in politics – JFK, civil rights, Vietnam. By the time you were learning long division, Neil Armstrong was walking on the moon. Government was making new promises to older Americans.

“When Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law, he pledged ‘No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will young families see their own incomes and their own hopes eaten away simply they are carrying out their deep moral obligations to their parents and to their uncles and to their aunts.’

“You see, there are two sides to that promise – obligations to young and old alike. And we must honor both.

“Today, our nation faces a political turning point. Government mismanagement and political cowardice are threatening both sides of LBJ’s pledge.

“Seniors are threatened by Obamacare – a law that would force steep cuts to real benefits in real time for real people.

[Crowd jeers, boos]

“Meanwhile, younger Americans are burdened by an ever-growing national debt and a diminished future.

“Here’s the good news. By embracing common sense reforms now, we can get ahead of the problem and keep promises people have organized their lives around.

“You see, if we reform Medicare for my generation, we can protect it for those in or near retirement today.


“The first step to a stronger Medicare is to repeal Obamacare.

[Crowd boos, jeers]

“Because it represents the worst of both worlds.

[Crowd boos, jeers]

“I had a feeling there’d be mixed reactions so let me get into it.

“It weakens Medicare for today’s seniors and puts it at risk for the next generation.

[Crowd boos]

“First, it funnels $716 billion out of Medicare to pay for a new entitlement we didn’t even ask for.

[Crowd boos]

“Second, it puts 15 unelected bureaucrats in charge of Medicare’s future.

[Crowd jeers]

“Let’s talk about each one of these in turn. You may not have heard this side of the story.

“By now, you’ve already heard a lot of claims and counter-claims about the President’s raid on Medicare.

“The President said that this would actually strengthen the program. He said that it would improve the program’s solvency. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s just not true.

“The money wasn’t walled off to stay in Medicare. Instead, the law turned Medicare into a piggy bank for Obamacare.

[Crowd boos, jeers]

“You don’t have to take my word for it. You don’t have to take my word for it. Ask the chief actuary at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He works for the Obama administration, and his job is to look after your Medicare. Well, last year we invited him to Congress to answer a simple question: If President Obama’s Medicare cuts were used to pay for new spending in Obamacare, how can they also improve Medicare’s solvency? His answer? They can’t. It’s simple. You can’t spend the same dollar twice. His exact words were, ‘It takes two sets of money to make it happen.’ President Obama spent one set on a government takeover of health care and he never provided the other to strengthen Medicare. So there it is – from the guy whose job it is to know.

[Crowd jeers]

“If anyone tries to tell you that Obamacare strengthened Medicare, just ask them where is the other $716 billion?

[Crowd boos]

“But that’s not all the new health care law did.

“You see, Medicare is going bankrupt. Everyone understands this.

“Well, even President Obama said last year, ‘If you look at the numbers, Medicare in particular will run out of money and we will not be able to sustain that program no matter how much taxes go up.’

“So the disagreement is not about the problem, it’s about the solution. You might have heard about the approach that Mitt Romney and I would take, which I will lay out for you. But you probably haven’t heard much about what President Obama would do.

“The President doesn’t talk much about what Obamacare will really mean for seniors, and anyone who understands the details knows why: People don’t like it.

“The President’s health care law sets up something called the Independent Payment Advisory Board. It will be made up of 15 unelected bureaucrats. The President has said that he will appoint experts but none of the 15 are required by law to have any medical training.

“And here’s the thing. As Medicare spending grows, this board is required to cut it. Unless Congress overrides these cuts with a super-majority vote, they automatically become law. Think about what this means.

“I know AARP was just involved in the annual debate over the so-called ‘Doc Fix.’ Back in 1997, Democrats and Republicans agreed to a budget deal that included large reductions in fees for doctors who treat Medicare patients. Well, it soon became clear that these cuts would make it impossible for many doctors to keep treating Medicare patients. So every year, like clockwork, Congress postpones the cuts. Some of us learned a lesson from that experience. Top-down bureaucratic cuts to Medicare just don’t work. Providers stop providing care. That’s what happens.

“Unfortunately, some Democrats including the President learned a different lesson. They never gave up on their belief in top-down bureaucratic cuts. But they did learn that these cuts are very unpopular. So Obamacare represents a first step in their new approach. They want to take responsibility for these cuts out of the hands of your elected representatives and give it to unelected bureaucrats. They want to let them make the decisions and let them take the heat.

“Here’s Medicare’s chief actuary again on what that would mean. These cuts could be so severe, he said that they could jeopardize access to care for beneficiaries.

“I deal with actuaries a lot as Chairman of the House Budget Committee. They tend to be mild mannered folks. So when one says something like that, here’s what it means in plain English: Red alert. Do not proceed with this plan.

“But you know President Obama’s slogan, right? Forward. Forward into a future where seniors are denied the care that they earned because a bureaucrat decided it wasn’t worth the money.

“So now you’ve got the full story about the President’s approach. Let me tell you about what Mitt Romney and I believe and what we will do if we’re elected 46 days from now.

“When I think about Medicare, I don’t think about charts and graphs and numbers.

[Crowd interrupts]

“My thoughts go back to a house on Garfield Street in Janesville. My wonderful grandma, Janet. She had Alzheimer’s. She moved in with my mom and me. Though she felt lost at times, we did all the little things that made her feel loved. We had help from Medicare, and it was there – just like it’s there for my mom today. My mom is here with me today. She’s senior from Florida.


“That time in my life – when my nana would live with my mom and me – is when we grew the closest. I’m very proud of my mom, and I’m happy she’s having a great retirement. Medicare is a big part of her security. Medicare is a promise and we will honor it.

“A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare for my mom’s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours. Our plan keeps the protection that have made a guarantee promised for seniors throughout the years.

“And let me be clear: it makes no changes for those in or near retirement.

“Now, in order to save Medicare for future generations, we propose putting 50 million seniors – not 15 unaccountable bureaucrats – in charge of their own health care decisions.


“Our plan empowers future seniors to choose the coverage that works best for them, from a list of plans that are required to offer at least the same level of benefits as traditional Medicare.

“This financial support system is designed to guarantee that seniors can always afford Medicare coverage – no exceptions.


“And if a senior wants to choose the traditional Medicare plan, then she will have that right.

“Our idea is to force insurance companies to compete against each other to better serve seniors with more help for the poor and the sick and less help for the wealthy.


“We’ve seen this kind of reform work in Medicare Part D, the program for prescription drugs. Choice and competition helped bring it in at 40% below cost projections. We’ve applied these lessons and improved upon them.

“And by the way, these aren’t just Republican ideas. Medicare reforms based on choice and competition go back to the Clinton administration. Experts from both parties helped form this plan. Democrats in Congress have supported these ideas.

“Mitt and I studied these bipartisan ideas. We looked at the numbers, and we came up with a plan to save this critical program.

“We did the same thing with Social Security. We know it’s in trouble, and we know what’s at stake. If we do not act, today’s seniors will face a 25% across-the-board benefit cut in the heart of their retirements. That’s current law.

“We also know what to do. Mitt Romney and I have put our own plan on the table. We will make no changes for those in or near retirement. And for my generation? We can make this program solvent by slightly raising the retirement age over time and slowing the growth of benefits for those with higher incomes.


“All that we need now is leaders who have the political will to save and strengthen Social Security.

“But when it comes to protecting this program, President Obama has come up short. The President has no plan and no plan doesn’t mean leaving Social Security as it is. It means letting it grow weaker. Inactions today will mean sharp cuts tomorrow.

“Time and again, this President has ducked the tough issues. He’s put his own job security over your retirement security.

[Crowd jeers]

“Of course, he said he’d be willing to work with Republicans but he has not moved an inch closer to common ground.

[Crowd boos]

“When it comes to bipartisanship, it’s easy to talk the talk but there is only one man running for President this year who has actually walked the walk. That man is Mitt Romney.

[Crowd jeers]

“And let me explain why. In a state where 87% of the state legislature was Democratic, Gov. Romney got real results by reaching across the aisle. Bringing people together. Crafting solutions that got widespread support. That’s how he was able to turn a $3 billion budget shortfall into a $2 billion rainy day fund. That’s how he was able to cut taxes 19 times and balance the budget in all 4 years. And that’s the kind of leadership we’re going to need if we’re going to save and strengthen Medicare and Social Security.


“Protecting Social Security is personal to me. My dad died when I was 16. Social Security survivor benefits helped my family. They helped me go to school. They helped my mom start a new career.

“When my dad died, my mom had recently entered her 50s just like many of you. She got on a bus every weekday for years and rode 40 miles each morning to Madison to go to school. She learned new skills to start her small business.

“It wasn’t just a new livelihood. It was a new life. And it transformed my mom from a widow in grief to a successful small businesswoman. Her work gave her hope. It made our family proud. And to this day, my mom is my role model.


“For people over 50, retirement security is part of a larger goal. Economic security is what we seek for all Americans. The last 4 years have been especially hard on Americans who are out of work but not yet ready to retire.

“I have met men and women who are close to giving up hope that they’ll ever be employed again. I mean it’s called long-term unemployment in economic emergency and he’s right. We haven’t seen a recovery this bad in decades. For many Americans, there’s been no recovery at all.

“For people who find themselves without a job before they’re ready to retire, starting or joining a small business offers a promising way to bridge the gap, just like my mom did.

“But President Obama’s policies have made it harder for small businesses to thrive. The President likes to talk about how he’s a champion for small business on the basis of a few temporary tax measures.

“But the truth is if he’s elected, he has actually promised to raise the tax rates that many successful small businesses paid to over 40% permanently.

“Mitt and I just think that’s the wrong approach. We believe that it’s the dreamers and the entrepreneurs, the workers and the families – not the government – who built this economy.


“And they are the ones who are going to get it growing again and get America working again. In a Romney-Ryan administration, we’re going to champion small businesses and the workers they employ and not stand in their way.


“We’ve got a plan that will reform the tax code, get rid of special interest loopholes, and limit deductions so that we can lower everybody’s tax rates. Simple. Fair. Competitive. That’s the tax code families and small businesses deserve. That’s how you get people back to work. That’s the tax code that we will deliver.

“We’re also going to repeal Obamacare and replace it with real reform.

“That’s also going to give businesses the certainty they need to start hiring again.

“And in a Romney-Ryan administration, American workers and small businesses will start getting the respect they deserve. After all their hard work, what they deserve is to hear the truth. Yes, you did build that business.


“There’s another threat to our economic security and it’s our debt. It’s hurting our economy now and if we don’t tackle it soon, it will tackle us.

“The President came into office promising to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term. Instead, he added $5 trillion of the debt and presided over our nation’s first credit downgrade.

“Friends, if we continue down the road that Europe is on, we will get European results. That means harsh cuts in benefits for those who depend on them along with crushing tax increases.

“The Federal Reserve can’t keep bailing us out forever. It can only offer a short-term fix that comes at a long-term cost and it is our seniors who will literally pay the price. The Feds actions are already having an effect on energy and food prices, forcing our nation’s seniors to stretch their fixed incomes. All this money printing hurts savers. It threatens the future value of our money and seniors are bearing most of the risk.

“Mitt Romney and I will take America off this dangerous path. We will bring back real economic growth. We will cut and cap spending. And we’ll restore America’s AAA-credit rating.

“We can do this. We still have time to get this right. Whenever I think about the challenges we’re facing, I think about my mom. Whether it’s the mid-career worker who has to start over, the senior who relies on Medicare today, or the grandparent who wants to make sure her grandkids inherit a stronger America. That’s my inspiration.

“And because I had such a strong example in my own life, I have an unshakeable belief in the resilience, wisdom, and ability of the American people to solve these problems.

“For mid-career Americans, let’s put a President in the White House who will champion small businesses so people can go back to work.

“For those on Medicare today, let’s repeal Obamacare. Let’s keep our promises to our seniors.

“And for future generations, let’s strengthen our health and retirement security program so that they can count on them when they retire.

“Let’s grow the economy so we have opportunities to succeed.

“Let’s work to leave our grandkids with a debt-free nation.

“Friends, it will be a long journey and we can make that journey only together. So I ask you today to join us in the work to come. Your support and the programs you care about have been taken for granted long enough. Let’s meet these challenges – not as Democrats and as Republicans but as Americans. Join us. Help us. Work with us. And I know we can get this done.”


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