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Paul Ryan's Speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library

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Paul Ryan spoke at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in California as part of its Perspectives in Leadership Forum. Ronald Reagan embodied optimism and "there must be a pony in here somewhere...".Full speech and video below, be encouraged Americans, let's get to work on changing America's path.

Summary of Reagan's Agenda and What Reagan Did after Carter, We Can Do Now. An America Renewal and Comeback!

Ronald Reagan and Tax Reform

If there is a single reform Ronald Reagan is identified with, it is tax reform. He persuaded America, Republicans and Democrats both, that lowering rates across the board, reducing the number of brackets, and eliminating deductions and loopholes were essential to restarting America’s engine of economic growth.

And he was right. President Reagan’s major tax reforms, enacted with bipartisan support, proved to be a cornerstone of the unprecedented economic boom that occurred in the decade during his presidency and continued in the decade that followed.

Ronald Reagan and Free Enterprise

What Ronald Reagan understood is that the case for free enterprise is not just a material argument, but a moral truth.

Concentrating power in a distant central government consistently leads to worse outcomes for the poor, because it displaces those core institutions through which we really do look out for one another: community, faith and family. It stifles their vitality and substitutes federal power in their place.

The Idea of America

America is the only country in history founded on an Idea – the Idea that all of us are endowed by our creator with the freedom to pursue our happiness, not someone else’s vision of what’s best for us.

We want government to create the conditions in which we can flourish – pursue a dream, provide for our families, earn our own success, and live the American vision of the good life.

Our Present Need for Leadership

Only with the right leadership in place can we move forward with ideas that renew the American promise of leaving our children a stronger nation than the one our parents left us.

We can do this. In talking with Americans across the country, I have been inspired by the spirit and energy of those hungry for a new direction – that restless desire to break through the barriers holding them back, to get back to work, to raise their families, and to build a greater legacy for the next generation.

Paul Ryan's Speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library

Thank you, Fred, for your very kind introduction. I am honored to be here today. Mrs. Reagan, thank you so much for inviting me to speak.  There is a spirit that pervades the Reagan Library. You can’t help but feel uplifted being here. It’s a spirit of optimism, a sense that things will turn out right, if only we make the effort.

In good times and bad, Ronald Reagan embodied optimism. This is so true that I don’t even have to tell his favorite joke, I only need to repeat the punchline: “There must be a pony in here somewhere!”

His optimism – together with his brilliant mind, determined will, and Nancy’s love and support – were the keys to Ronald Reagan’s greatness as an American leader. His temperament was sunny by nature, but I believe his optimism for the future just kept growing the more he talked with people from all walks of life.

President Reagan liked to talk about his experiences touring GE plants around the country. He addressed maybe a quarter of a million people over those years, and he would stay after to talk with the workers.

As he listened to their concerns, he came to realize how worried they were by the bureaucrats, not only within their own company, but also by bureaucratic interventions from Washington, which were making their jobs more difficult.

In my own travels across this country, and especially at my town halls in southern Wisconsin, I’ve heard a lot of the same concerns.

Americans today are uncertain and worried about their future. Many are suffering from lost jobs and shrinking incomes in ways they never suffered before.

We look around us and see problems – rising health care costs, rising energy and food prices, rising college tuition, rising debt, and stagnant wages. And government just doesn’t seem to have any answers.

And we start to understand that Ronald Reagan’s famous diagnosis applies again today: In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.

Look, Americans don’t want to get rid of government. We like limited, effective government just fine. But that’s not what we’re getting. We’re getting big, dysfunctional government.

In the face of enormous challenges, the President and his party leaders have steadily increased government’s power, promised wonderful things, and consistently delivered awful results.

And they show no signs of changing course.

It’s up to us to get America back on track.

America is the only country in history founded on an Idea – the Idea that all of us are endowed by our creator with the freedom to pursue our happiness, not someone else’s vision of what’s best for us.

We want government to create the conditions in which we can flourish – pursue a dream, provide for our families, earn our own success, and live the American vision of the good life.

Instead, we have a government in place that is determined to redefine that vision, so that less of our success is earned, and more of it owed, to the wise providence of a handful of special assistants to the deputy undersecretary of some federal department that thinks they know better than us.

Too many in Washington think that you and I and our families and friends can’t succeed on our own anymore. Sure, we face barriers to success in America – but government isn’t removing those barriers from our lives. Instead, those in power are taking the view that we’re all just stuck in our current stations in life, and government’s job is to help us cope with it.

Whatever you call that, that’s not the American Idea.

That’s how a problem like the high cost of health care gets a response like the new health care law. This $1.6 trillion monstrosity is already creating big problems for American businesses and families, without addressing the problems it was intended to solve.

The good news is this: Americans are rejecting this approach.

We know there’s a better way forward. And more important, we know we can choose this better way. Why? Because we’ve done it before.

That’s why the parallels between 1980 and today are so striking. Now, as then, we face not just a failed President, but a failed ideology. We face a pessimistic mood in the nation's capital – a belief that our best days are over and the only thing left to do is manage the nation’s decline.

But we have the same opportunity today, to reject this defeatist attitude and embrace a positive reform agenda capable of kick-starting a new era of prosperity.

We know this story has a happy ending. We know our country will not choose a path to decline. But we still have a lot of work to do if we want to get there.

Let me explain why I’m so confident that America will choose the right path.

Americans have always rejected those with nothing to offer but cynicism and the politics of division.

And right now, that’s all they’re getting from the President.

During his last campaign, he promised to help us, quote, “rediscover our bonds to each other and get out of this constant, petty bickering that’s come to characterize our politics.”

Sadly, he has broken this promise, and become just another Washington politician.

He does not seem to understand that he can’t promote the common good by setting class against class, or group against group.

The divisive politics of the last three years have not only undermined social solidarity, they have brought progress and reform to a standstill at the very time when America was desperate for solutions to a devastating financial crisis.

To be clear, President Obama did not cause this crisis. Years of empty promises from both political parties brought us to this moment.

But regrettably, this President was unwilling to advance credible solutions to the problem.

In response to the financial crisis, we needed policies to strengthen the foundations of our free market economy.

What we got was the opposite.

We needed a single-minded focus on restoring economic growth: After the immediate panic in late 2008 subsided, we needed to restore real accountability in the financial sector and just clean up the mess.

We needed to restore the principle that those who seek to reap the gains in our economy also bear the full risk of the losses.

We needed policies to control our debt trajectory so that families and businesses could confidently invest in our future.

Instead, the White House and the last Congress enacted an agenda that made matters worse.

They misspent hundreds of billions of dollars on politically connected boondoggles.

Then, when the country’s number one priority remained getting the economy back on track, the White House and the last Congress made their number one priority a massive, unwanted expansion of the government’s role in health care.

They even tried to impose a costly increase in energy prices in the middle of a recession.

And their idea of Wall Street reform? A blank check for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, plus a new law giving more protection and preferential treatment to the big banks, and more power to the same regulators who failed to see the last crisis coming.

The administration and the last Congress tried to exploit a financial crisis to transform a free-enterprise society into a government-centered society – a massively expanded role for the federal government, higher spending to support this expanded role, and higher taxes to support the higher spending.

Higher borrowing, too. In three and a half years, debt held by the public grew by roughly $4.5 trillion – that’s a 70 percent increase.

Our debt is projected to get much worse, spiraling out of control in the years ahead.

This bleak outlook is paralyzing economic growth today. Investors, businesses and families look at the size of the debt and they hold back, for fear that America is headed for a diminished future.

Today, we face a fundamental challenge to the American way of life – a gathering storm, whose primary manifestation is the shadow of our ever-growing national debt… and whose most troubling consequence is ever-shrinking opportunity for Americans young and old.

This shadow hangs over young people, who face a struggling economy and the likelihood of greater turmoil ahead. More than half of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed in this economy. Half!

The shadow hangs over senior citizens, who have been lied to about their retirement security.

And it hangs over parents. We wonder if we will be the first generation in American history to leave our children with fewer opportunities and a less prosperous nation than the one we inherited.

This storm has already hit Europe – where millions are enduring the painful consequences of empty promises turning into broken promises.

We must avoid European-style austerity – harsh benefit cuts for current retirees and tax increases that slow the economy to a crawl.

But too many in Washington are repeating Europe’s mistakes instead of learning from them.

If we stay on this path, then bond markets in a state of panic will turn on us, threatening to end the American Idea.

Forced austerity would put an end to that most fundamental of American aspirations… that in this land we are responsible for our own destiny… that on this continent we might forever be free from foreign powers who would impose their limits on our dreams for ourselves and our children.

If our generation fails to meet its defining challenge, we would see America surrender her independence… not to a foreign army, but to the army of foreign creditors who already own roughly half of our public debt.

The policies in place today would guarantee that outcome, unless we turn this around… soon.

There must be a pony in here somewhere, right? And the good news is, there is.

If you hear me say one thing today, hear this: This will not be our destiny.

Americans will never accept this shrunken vision of our future.

That’s not who we are.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan explained perfectly why Americans would never accept this mindset, quote: “They expect you to tell your children that the American people no longer have the will to cope with their problems; that the future will be one of sacrifice and few opportunities.”

What Ronald Reagan understood is that the case for free enterprise is not just a material argument, but a moral truth.

And next January, our government will renew its dedication to this moral truth: the American Idea of an opportunity society.

Government’s role is not to rig the rules and aim for equal outcomes, but – in the words of our first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln – “to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all,” so that all may have an equal opportunity to rise and freely pursue their happiness.

The budget passed by the House of Representatives this year drew the pattern for government under new management in 2013. It is a plan to lift the debt and free the nation from the constraints of ever-expanding government.

This budget will promote economic growth and opportunity on the first day it is enacted, with bold reforms to the tax code and a credible, principled plan to stop the debt crisis from ever happening.

President Obama’s government-centered policies take from hard-working Americans and give to politically connected companies and privileged special interests.

Our budget calls this what it is – it’s corporate welfare. And we propose to end it.

As we end welfare for those who don’t need it, we will strengthen welfare programs for those who do.

Government safety-net programs have been stretched to the breaking point in recent years, failing the very citizens who need help the most.

Look, we pride ourselves on looking out for one another – and government has an important role to play in that. But relying on distant government bureaucracies to lead this effort just hasn’t worked.

Concentrating power in a distant central government consistently leads to worse outcomes for the poor, because it displaces those core institutions through which we really do look out for one another: community, faith and family. It stifles their vitality and substitutes federal power in their place.

Too many in Washington spend too much time trying to measure compassion for those in need by measuring inputs. How much are we spending? How much are we increasing spending? How many new programs are we creating?

But we’re not measuring outcomes. Are these programs working? Are people getting out of poverty? Shouldn’t that be our goal?

Look at the results of the government-centered approach to the war on poverty. One in six Americans are in poverty today – the highest rate in a generation. In this war on poverty, poverty is winning.

The intentions may have been good – but the outcomes were anything but fair.

It is anything but fair to keep people trapped in programs that hinder their upward mobility.

It is anything but fair to allow the debt to weigh on job creation today, closing off the most promising avenues for the poor to rise.

And it is anything but fair to close off even more opportunities by further weakening the economy with permanently higher taxes.

Fairness means empowering citizens with policies that promote growth and opportunity. Fairness means maintaining strong, but not limitless, safety-net programs for society’s most vulnerable. And fairness means fiercely protecting the God-given right of every human being to flourish by his or her own efforts.

Our budget builds on the historic welfare reforms of the 1990s – reforms proven to work. We aim to empower state and local governments, communities, and individuals – those closest to the problem. And we aim to promote opportunity and upward mobility by strengthening job training programs, to help those who have fallen on hard times.

Our budget lifts the debt, fosters economic growth, and ensures that government keeps the promises it is making to Americans.

Instead of letting our critical health and retirement programs go bankrupt, our first budget next year will save and strengthen them so they can fulfill their missions in the 21st Century.

The President likes to talk about Medicare. We welcome the debate. We need this debate.

What the President won’t tell you is that he’s already changed Medicare forever. His health care law puts a board of 15 unelected bureaucrats in charge of cutting Medicare.

We should never agree to turn the fate of our parents and grandparents over to an unaccountable board and let it make decisions that could deny them access to their care.

The new President and Congress will reverse this change immediately. Our budget next year will keep the protections that have made Medicare a guaranteed promise for seniors throughout the years. And it will make no changes for those in or near retirement.

In order to save Medicare for future generations, we propose to put 50 million seniors, not 15 unaccountable bureaucrats, in charge of their personal health care decisions.

The President also likes to talk about taxes. We welcome the debate. We need this debate.

If there is a single reform Ronald Reagan is identified with, it is tax reform. He persuaded America, Republicans and Democrats both, that lowering rates across the board, reducing the number of brackets, and eliminating deductions and loopholes were essential to restarting America’s engine of economic growth.

And he was right. President Reagan’s major tax reforms, enacted with bipartisan support, proved to be a cornerstone of the unprecedented economic boom that occurred in the decade during his presidency and continued in the decade that followed.

But as the years went by, credits, carve-outs and lobbyist loopholes grew on the code like weeds.

And President Obama wants to take us further in the wrong direction. He remains committed to taking more and more from the paychecks of hard-working Americans – not even to pay down the debt, but to chase ever-higher government spending.

We propose a total overhaul of the tax code, to make it fair, simple, and competitive.

We lower rates across the board. But revenue would go up every year under our budget, because the economy grows, and because we propose to close those special-interest loopholes that go primarily to the well-connected and the well-off.

When we lower tax rates by closing special-interest loopholes, we’re saying Washington shouldn’t micromanage people’s decisions through the tax code.

Let people keep more of their hard-earned money. Let them decide how to spend it.

We need this kind of tax reform to get our economy moving again. In the last four years, millions of Americans have stopped looking for work.

If the labor force participation rate were the same as it was when President Obama took office, then the unemployment rate would be 11 percent today.

We are heading toward a “new normal” of European unemployment levels because the administration’s ideas for job growth have failed.

We will never accept that here in America – and we don’t need to. The reforms we will put in place next year will make our economy the engine of job creation it was in the 1980s, giving millions of workers – who had given up hope for a job – a new shot at success.

The principles and proposals I have been describing today are not exclusive to one political party. The patient-centered Medicare reforms we advanced in the House this year have a long history of bipartisan support.

And tax reforms based on lowering rates and closing loopholes go back to President Reagan’s 1986 reform, when Democrats served as the congressional co-sponsors of the landmark law.

It makes sense that these ideas have attracted leaders in both parties. Patient-centered Medicare offers the only guarantee that Medicare can keep its promise to seniors for generations to come.

And pro-growth tax reform, by lowering rates for all Americans while closing loopholes that primarily benefit the well off, can eliminate unfairness in the tax code and ensure a level playing field for all.

This is just a glimpse of what we can accomplish next year. Now for the hard part: Progress will require the removal of certain partisan roadblocks: a flawed health care law that must be replaced, and the insistence from some in Washington on tax hikes and tax gimmicks instead of tax reform.

Only with the right leadership in place can we move forward with ideas that renew the American promise of leaving our children a stronger nation than the one our parents left us.

We can do this. In talking with Americans across the country, I have been inspired by the spirit and energy of those hungry for a new direction – that restless desire to break through the barriers holding them back, to get back to work, to raise their families, and to build a greater legacy for the next generation.

People understand the moment we are in, and they are way ahead of the political class on this.

They know that the times call for leaders who understand the depth of the problems we face, and who offer far-reaching reforms equal to the challenges.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan offered supply-side economics at home and a rollback of Soviet Communism abroad.

The challenges this time? They’re different. But the moment calls for the same kind of boldness.

I believe boldness and clarity of the kind that Ronald Reagan displayed in 1980 offer us the greatest opportunity to create a winning coalition in 2012. We will not only win the next election – we have a unique opportunity to sweep and remake the political landscape.

Of course we will highlight the President’s failed agenda. But Americans deserve to choose an alternative – one that aligns with our needs. One we can rally behind. One our Founders would be proud of.

A bold reform agenda is our moral obligation. We have an obligation to provide the American people with a clear path that gets our country back on track.

If we make the case effectively and win this November, then we will have the moral authority to enact the kind of fundamental reforms America has not seen since Ronald Reagan’s first year.

Look, it is rare in American politics to arrive at a moment in which the election revolves around the fundamental nature of American democracy and the social contract. But that is exactly where we are today.

The defenders of the status quo would give more power to unelected bureaucrats, take more from hard-working taxpayers to fuel the expansion of government, and commit our nation to a future of debt and decline.

This approach has proven unworkable – in Congress, in our courts, and in our communities.

We who advocate the American Idea in the 21st century want to build a better path, consistent with the timeless principles of our nation’s founding.

We put our trust in people… in citizens, not nameless government officials, to determine what is in their best interests, and to make the right choices about their future.

In this country, we still have the ability, and the dignity, and the right, to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny.

We are Americans. Nothing can keep us down.

Thank you… and thank you again, Mrs. Reagan, for inviting me, and for all that you and your husband did to keep this country great.

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