Putting himself at odds with his GOP presidential running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan this morning on “This Week” refused to tell me that he would reject a hypothetical debt reduction deal — composed of spending cuts and tax hikes by a ratio of ten to one – that Mitt Romney famously rejected during a presidential primary debate last year.
“You know, it depends on the quality of the agreement. It depends on the quality of the policy. Our negotiators in the super committee offered higher revenues through tax reform. John Boehner did as well. So George, what really matters to me is not ratios but what matters is the quality of the policy,” Ryan said.
Romney, along with every candidate on stage at the time, raised his hand when he was asked if he would walk away from a debt reduction deal made up of spending cuts and tax hikes by a ratio of ten to one during a FOX News debate in Iowa. The former Massachusetts governor later doubled down on his position that he would not accept the deal earlier this year.
While Ryan did not reject the idea of a deal during our interview, he did not embrace it either, saying he could not take a position on the concept Romney rejected.
“There’s no deal to walk away from. The point is, you’re not giving me a deal to look at. You’re giving me ratios,” Ryan said. “Here’s — let me say this. Our problem is not that we are overtaxed. We are overtaxed. Our problem is we spend too much money.”
I also pressed the Wisconsin congressman to tell me what specific loopholes a Romney White House would attempt to close as part of their tax plan. Romney has not specified which deductions and exemptions would be eliminated. Ryan declined to outline those, but said there was no “secret plan.”
“So Mitt Romney and I, based on our experience, think the best way to do this is to show the framework, show the outlines of these plans, and then to work with Congress to do this. That’s how you get things done,” Ryan said. “We want to have this debate in the public. We want to have this debate with Congress. And we want to do this with the consent of the elected representatives of the people and figure out what loopholes should stay or go and who should or should not get them… But that is a debate we shouldn’t cut in the back room, shouldn’t hatch a secret plan like ObamaCare. We should do it out in the public view where the public can participate.”
“We think the best way to get — look, I’ve been in Congress a number of years. I’ve been on the Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. And we think the best way to do this is to get this framework in place and then negotiate, work with Democrats, work with people across the aisle, have these kinds of hearings, have this conversation to get this objective.” Ryan said.
Ryan did say, however, that “high income earners use most of the loopholes,” suggesting that the impact on the American middle and lower classes would be minimal. Ryan added “our priorities are high income earners should not get these kinds of loopholes.”
“Now the question is, not necessarily what loopholes go, but who gets them. High income earners use most of the loopholes. That means they can shelter their income from taxation,” Ryan said. “But if you take those loopholes, those tax shelters away from high income earners, more of their income is subject to taxation. And that allows us to lower tax rates on everybody — small businesses, families, economic growth.”