Obama: "At what point can we have a serious conversation?"
Great question, Mr. President.
Wisconsins First District Congressman Paul Ryan continues his push for alternative solutions, garnering praise from President Obama for putting forth a "serious," "legitmate" proposal to save our critical health and retirement security programs for current and future generations. The President went out of his way to commend Ryan for his proposal, calling it genuine, detailed and a legitimate plan to tackle our fiscal crisis. President Obama spoke at the GOP Retreat in Baltimore earlier today, and discussed entitlement reform and additional budget challenges with Ryan.
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President Obama: I think Paul [Ryan], for example, the head of the Budget Committee, has looked at the budget and has made a serious proposal. Ive read it. I can tell you whats in it. And theres some ideas in there that I would agree with but theres some ideas we should have a healthy debate about because I dont agree with them. The major driver of our long-term liabilities, everybody here knows, is Medicare and Medicaid and our health care spending. Nothing comes close. Thats going to be what our children have to worry about. Now, Pauls approach, and I want to be careful not to simplify this, I know youve got a lot of detail in your plan, but, if I understand it correctly, would say, were going to provide vouchers of some sort for current Medicare recipients at the current level No?
Congressman Ryan: No we protect the program for Americans 55 and above [those in and near retirement]
Obama: I understand theres a grandfathering in.Thats why I said I wanted to make sure that Im not being unfair to your proposal. I just want to point out that Ive read it, and the basic idea would be that, at some point, we hold Medicare cost per recipient constant as a way of making sure that that doesnt go way out of whack, and Im sure there some details
Ryan: We increase the Medicare payments with a blend of inflation and health inflation. The point of our plan is, because Medicare as you know is a $38 trillion unfunded liability.
Ryan: It has to be reformed for younger generations because it wont exist. Its going bankrupt. The premise of our idea is look, why not give people the same kind of health care plan we here have in Congress? Thats the kind of reform were proposing for Medicare. [applause]
Obama: As I said before, this is an entirely legitimate proposal. There is a political vulnerability to doing anything that tinkers with Medicare. And that's probably the biggest savings that are obtained through Paul's plan. And I raise that, not because we shouldnt have a serious discussion about it; I raise that because we're not going to be able to do anything about any of these entitlements if what we do is characterize whatever proposals are put out there as 'Well, you know, that's the other party being irresponsible…the other party is trying to hurt our senior citizens.' That's why I say: if we're going to frame these in the way that allow us to solve them, then we can't start off by figuring out a) who is to blame; b) how can we make the American people afraid of the other side. And unfortunately that's how our politics works right now. Every time somebody speaks in Congress, the first thing they do, they have all the talking points, I see Frank Luntz up here, he's already polled it. I've done a focus group, they way we're going to box Obama in on this one, or make Pelosi look bad on that one. That's how we operate. It's all tactics. It's not solving problems. And so the question is: at what point can we have a serious conversation about Medicare and its long-term liability, or a serious conversation about Social Security or serious conversation about budget and debt where aren't simply trying to position ourselves politically. That's what I'm committed to doing.