Tim Geithner to Paul Ryan: "We don't have a definitive solution... We just don't like yours"
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Uploaded on Feb 16, 2012
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on the Obama Administration's definition of leadership.
Congressman Paul Ryan: Let's show Slide 8. I know you didn't necessarily want to see this chart. The red is the status quo, that's the baseline we're on.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: You could have taken it to 3,000 or 4,000...
Congressman Paul Ryan: Yeah, right. We cut it off at the end of the century because the economy, according to the CBO, shuts down in 2027 on this path.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: I like this chart; I looked at this chart yesterday. You're talking about I think more than half a century. But if you look at the gap between us—
Congressman Paul Ryan: I understand the gap.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: —between 10 and 20, it's a pretty small gap. In that gap though—that 10 to 20 gap, which is all we're debating today—is a gap where you're achieving that slightly diminished path.
Congressman Paul Ryan: Here's the point, if you'll allow me. This is your time, so we'll just take a long time. Here's the point. Leaders are supposed to fix problems. We have a $99.4 trillion unfunded liability. Our government is making promises to Americans that it has no way of accounting for. And so you're saying yeah, we're stabilizing it but we're not fixing it in the long run. That means we're just going to keep lying to people. We're going to keep all these empty promises going.
So what we're saying is, in order to avert a debt crisis—you're the Treasury Secretary, of all people—if we can't make good on our bonds in the future, who is going to invest in our country? We do not want to have a debt crisis. It comes down to confidence in trajectory. Do we have confidence that we're going to get our fiscal situation under control and prevent the debt from getting to these catastrophic levels?
If we go back to the preceding chart, Chart 13, you're showing that you have no plan to get this debt under control. You're saying we'll stabilize it but then it's going to shoot back up. So my argument is, that's Europe. That is bringing is toward a European debt crisis because we're showing the world, the credit market's future seniors—people who are organizing their lives around the promises that are being made to them today—that we don't have a plan to make good on this.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: Mr. Chairman, as I said, we're not disagreeing in that sense. I made it absolutely clear that what our budget does is get our deficit down to a sustainable path over the budget window.
Congressman Paul Ryan: And then it takes off.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: Let's ask ourselves why they take off again. Why do they do that?
Congressman Paul Ryan: Because we have 10,000 people retiring everyday and healthcare costs going up.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: That's right. We have millions of Americans retiring everyday and that will drive substantial growth rates for healthcare costs. We're not becoming before you to say we have a definitive solution to our long-term problem. What we do know is that we don't like yours.
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