Paul Ryan, the Republican running mate of presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, sat down with The Gazette on Wednesday afternoon, and a shortened version of the interview appeared in the paper Thursday morning. Here's the full interview, in which he talked about impending cuts to the defense budget and how they may affect the Colorado Springs area, Colorado’s importance to the presidential race and the controversial “Amycare.” Ryan also said that Pikes Peak is one of the 28 mountains he’s climbed in Colorado over the years.
The Gazette: Sen. McCain and a couple of other U.S. Senators were here yesterday, talking about the federal budget, sequestration, cuts to the military, I was wondering if I could get your thoughts on how those cuts may affect the area — Colorado Springs.
Ryan: I saw once today that we could lose 18,000 jobs, here in southern Colorado alone. Let me be really clear about this — we don’t support this. Mitt Romney and I disagree with the president’s defense cuts. Now, there’s a few rounds here — you’ve got the Obama budget, which is about a half a trillion dollars in cuts we disagree with. You’ve got the sequester. I was part of the BCAS (Budget Control Act of 2011), what we call the BCAS. President Obama is the one who insisted that they are included in this agreement, this bipartisan budget agreement. What we did, what I wrote, a bill in the House and passed it out of the House, was to prevent those cuts by cutting wasteful spending in other areas of government. The president won’t support that. So the House has already acted to stop these cuts. We don’t even support his original budget, which has deep cuts, because we believe in peace through strength. We believe in a strong military. We believe that these various rounds of cuts, the first round of Obama cuts, when the sequester kicks in, that will devastate our military. It really will devastate our military. And it will invite weakness — the perception of weakness — it will make us weaker.
The Gazette: Do you have any idea, or suggestion, or fear about what it may do around here? We have five different military installations —
Ryan: Well, missile defense, first of all, we support military defense, and the president obviously doesn’t. So I think it’s going to hurt our air bases. You’ve got a big Army post here. I think it’s going to lower end strength, which means fewer divisions, fewer brigades. You’ve got weapons systems that are being put on the back burner, like the joint strike fighter. You’ve got — this isn’t a Navy area, but it’s going to bring our ship count down perilously low.
The Gazette: So there could be a lot of people around here in the military who could lose their jobs.
Ryan: Yeah. I mean, look at just the Army and the Air Force cuts that are just occurring over there. Those would be devastating to southern Colorado, because this is Air Force and Army. These things not only hurt jobs here — they make us weaker. And it’s not easy to build your military back up. You have to be strong and at the ready all the time. And we really believe — the only area the president seems eager to cut spending, because he increases it everywhere else, is in the military. So we just have a very different opinion than him on this.
The Gazette: On health care, you and plenty of other Republicans obviously have been very vocal about being opposed to the Patient Protection Act. There’s a state health care exchange that’s been set up —
Ryan: Yeah, in Colorado.
The Gazette: Yeah. And it was called derisively by a lot of opponents “Amycare,” after the Republican sponsor, Majority Leader Amy Stephens, who’s from around here, actually. So they call it “Amycare,” because it’s a state health care exchange. And it was set up in response to the Patient Protection Act, because of the federal mandate that states would have to have one —
Ryan: Yeah. Right. Not all of the states are doing that, though. Like, we’re not doing that in Wisconsin.
The Gazette: Yeah, exactly. But Colorado’s starting to, and it was a bipartisan measure. And I’m sure you’re not obviously going to —
Ryan: Yeah, I’m not going to weigh in on all that.
The Gazette: But what do you think about health care exchanges in general?
Ryan: Yeah, okay. I was trying to wonder where you were going with that. First of all, we really, really believe you need to repeal all of Obamacare, because the architectural design of it is so flawed. The premise and the structure of Obamacare is such that it basically represents a government takeover of our health care sector and our health care system. So we want to get rid of the whole thing. Including every piece of it. Now, people like me have offered lots of health care bills in the past. And local, state-based exchanges — it’s a word with lots of different meaning. So you can have exchanges which are simply little more than portals that people can go to, to get health insurance, so that people can go and compare and contrast, on an apples-to-apples basis, health insurance that is being offered to them. That’s a good thing. So those kinds of exchanges — that facilitate people buying in the private market — are helpful. This kind of exchange — I don’t know, I can’t tell you about Amycare, I mean — but Obamacare exchanges are designed to funnel people into Obamacare. And Obamacare, we believe, you’ll have about five health insurance companies left in America. There’ll be effectively government-run public utilities, like a power company. And you have next to no choices. There’ll be about two different kinds of plans. They say, “gold, silver and bronze,” actually, what you’re telling us is that bronze may not even be there. So, the law says, basically, three different kinds of plans, which are just varying deductibles and co-pays. No choice, no competition, and the exchanges are just funneling people into a government one-size-fits-all program. That’s not —
The Gazette: But state and local exchanges can be positive, depending on how they’re structured.
Ryan: Yes. In the absence of an Obamacare premise, then local exchanges can be used to facilitate people, to purchase health insurance in a vibrant market with lots of choices and competition. This case, Obamacare, it’s funneling people into a system that’s denying them choice and that’s denying competition, and that’s basically the government taking over the system.
The Gazette: You’ve been here a couple of times in the past month. Have you been coming here and are you here because this is a swing state?
Ryan. Yeah. Yeah. (Laughs) I’m not —
The Gazette: I can’t take it for granted. I can’t just write —
Ryan: Yeah, yeah. I’m not one of those people who cuts around the bush. Colorado — Coloradans will, they have a big responsibility. They have a big opportunity. They very well determine who’s our next president and what way our country goes. They very well may determine the future of our military, the future of our economy, whether we have a debt crisis or not. These are big stakes. And this state — Colorado — is, just like mine, a big-time battleground state. That’s why we’re here. We’re here to make sure we give people in Colorado a very clear choice. Mitt and I believe we owe the country a very clear choice of two futures, and that’s why I’m here.
The Gazette: One thing that a lot of people who have been asking me about is the climbing thing that came up about a month ago. How many 14ers have you climbed?
Ryan: Go read Craig Gilbert, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He paraphrased a conversation we had three years ago, and that’s where the Internet thing got off. You read the transcript. That’s my answer.
The Gazette: Have you done Pike’s Peak?
The Gazette: Do you remember when it was, how long it took you?
Ryan: Years ago. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. We’ve been coming out here, every year, my family, since I was a little kid. I’ve been doing this, I did it when I was in high school, I think.
The Gazette: Do you remember how long it took you?
Ryan: No, I’m not going to counter that. You’re just trying to play “gotcha.”
The Gazette: I’m not trying to play “gotcha,” it’s just something a lot of people have been asking me.