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Ryan: Medicare and Social Security unsustainable

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MOUNT PLEASANT — The country cannot continue promising money it doesn’t have to its citizens, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan says.

Ryan spoke Wednesday at a listening session in the auditorium at Case High School, 7345 Washington Ave. About 115 people heard Ryan discuss a variety of issues, many of them economic-related and tied to his work as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Ryan, whose district includes Racine County, said he sees some common ground possible with President Barack Obama on tax reform. But he wants larger-scale solutions to modernize programs like Medicare and Social Security, which he said are unsustainable.

“Our government is right now making a lot of promises to people it knows it can’t keep,” said Ryan, R-Wis. “Our argument is, the sooner we tackle this to get on top of this, the better off that is for everybody.”

Ryan faced a mostly friendly audience but also sharp questioning.

Joe Sabol of Mount Pleasant questioned Ryan’s stance on tax reform, saying the nine-term congressman should focus less on reducing tax rates for corporations.

“We’re not Greece. We’re not broke. We have a lot of money, but it’s being shoveled to the top one-tenth, or even smaller than that, percent,” Sabol said. “That’s where you really need to focus on your tax reform.”

Ryan said he wants to cut tax rates on both individuals and businesses. He added the Ways and Means Committee will likely address businesses first because the Obama administration has signaled it is open to lowering business tax rates.

“I personally prefer to do the whole thing – clean the whole system up, get rid of loopholes, get rid of all these special-interest, carve-out plans,” Ryan said.

The Ways and Means Committee also is focused on a trade agreement with countries in the Pacific region, an impending bankruptcy in the highway trust fund and Medicare fixes, he said.

Ryan also spoke on issues in Veterans Affairs, which had high-profile problems in Tomah after workers reportedly overprescribed medication. Ryan said he favors changing the system so that veterans have a greater ability to get treatment at local hospitals, in addition to VA hospitals.

In response to a question about oil-train derailments — including a March derailment in Galena, Ill. — Ryan pushed for more oil pipelines in the United States, which he said would result in less oil needing to be transported by rail.


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