President Obama is “sowing social unrest and class resentment” in his push to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for his jobs bill, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said Wednesday.
“Instead of appealing to the hope and optimism that were hallmarks of his first campaign, he has launched his second campaign by preying on the emotions of fear, envy, and resentment,” Ryan told a group gathered at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington.
Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, used the remarks to defend his budget plan approved by the House earlier this year. The Ryan plan called for dramatic spending cuts and aimed to phase in a Medicare voucher system. It was aggressively attacked by Democrats, and, although passed nearly unanimously by the House Republican majority, all but ignored by GOP lawmakers in recent months.
“The president likes to use Warren Buffett and his secretary as an example of why we should raise taxes on the rich. Well, Warren Buffett gets the same health and retirement benefits from the government as his secretary,” Ryan said in prepared remarks. “But our proposals to modestly income-adjust Social Security and Medicare benefits have been met with sheer demagoguery by leading members of the president’s party.”
The theme of Ryan’s speech was “Saving the American Idea: Rejecting fear, envy and the politics of division.” Ryan argued that the Founding Fathers rejected traditional European notions of class and economic opportunity. But “the president’s policies have moved us closer to the European model,” he said.
After his speech, Ryan was asked his opinion of the Occupy Wall Street protests that have seized on economic inequality and corporate influence in politics.
“I think it’s fine that people want to petition and air their grievances, as long as nobody gets hurt,” Ryan said. “I’m not precisely sure what policies they're shooting for.”
He was also asked his opinion on a recent Vatican document calling for a “central world bank” and a “spirit of solidarity that transcends personal utility for the good of the community.” The article has been pointed to by same as an endorsement of worldwide protests and some redistribution of wealth.
Ryan, a Catholic, said he’d skimmed through the document, and in light of past encyclicals issued by Pope Benedict XVI said he didn’t read it that way.
“Do I believe that we ought to have some kind of international system for dividing the pie? No, I don’t think that’s what he’s calling for,” he said.