When Paul Ryan takes over as chairman of the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in 2015, expect him to develop a tax reform plan that specifically lays out which tax breaks he would scrap or reduce in order to lower tax rates.
"If you know anything about me, I’m a person who likes to put out plans and be specific and run on those ideas,” Ryan told THE WEEKLY STANDARD during a phone interview. Ryan said he didn't want to get ahead of himself about what he may or may not do next session, but he made it clear that he disagrees with some conservatives who are willing to accept a high top tax rate in order to increase the child tax credit.
“I’m a classic growth conservative. I believe that the best way to help families, the best way to help the economy is to reduce rates across the board," Ryan said when asked about Utah senator Mike Lee's plan to increase the child tax credit and create two income tax brackets of 15 percent and 35 percent. "Growth occurs on the margin, which is a wonky way of saying, if you want faster economic growth, more upward mobility, and faster job creation, lower tax rates across the board is the key—it’s the secret sauce."
Some conservatives have argued that reducing the top rate is less urgent now than it was during the Reagan administration, when the top rate was cut from 70 percent to 50 percent and then cut again from 50 percent to 28 percent. But Ryan says that cutting the top rate is "even more pressing now" than it was back then "because the American economy was so dominant in the global economy and capital was not nearly as mobile as it is today."
And reducing the corporate tax rate while leaving the top individual income tax rate high as President Obama would like to do is unacceptable, according to Ryan. "He's clearly fixated on higher rates for individuals," Ryan said of the president. “They conveniently leave out the fact that 80 percent of businesses as taxed as individuals."
Ryan is kicking off a nationwide tour this week to promote his new book, The Way Forward, which focuses on Ryan's biography and policy agenda.
Though the book mostly addresses domestic policy, it also touches briefly on national defense and foreign policy. Ryan told me during our phone conversation that all options should be on the table to defeat the Islamist terrorists who have taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria.
“An Islamic caliphate is an unacceptable security risk to the American people and we have to do everything we can to prevent it from materializing," Ryan said. "I can go back and criticize some critical mistakes of the Obama administration, like having zero footprint and clout with the Iraqi government, which disintegrated and therefore created a vacuum. Having no status of forces agreement even though they wanted to have one was a fundamental mistake of this administration."
"Mitt was proven right, President Obama's been proven wrong," Ryan said of their 2012 dispute over keeping U.S. troops in Iraq.
"When you have America withdrawing from its place in the world and losing its standing in the world, vacuums are filled by malcontents, by aggressors, by countries like Russia and China or even worse, Islamic terrorists, who in this case are very well organized, very lethal, and a severe threat to our security," Ryan said.
When asked if the U.S. should deploy ground troops to Iraq, Ryan replied: “I don’t think you take anything off the table. But I don’t think from a tactical perspective that’s necessary. I think you need to enable and reconstitute the Iraqi army and all Iraqis—Kurds, Sunnis, Shia together—along with our enablers, our logistics, and our air support to help them take back their country.”
Ryan said that he'll make a decision about running for president in 2015, but he hasn't given himself a deadline. Mitt Romney "always" tells Ryan that he should run for president, "but I say back at ya.”