U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan warned in a speech Monday that the nation was headed for a debt crisis.
"We're coming into what I would call a tipping point," he said. "The more concerning tipping point is a cultural one, where we have more takers than makers in America."
Ryan, a Janesville Republican and rising star of the GOP, spoke to members of the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce at the Milwaukee Athletic Club to kick off the conservative business group's "Decision 2012 Series." In his speech, titled "A Shining City on a Hill... or Greece?" Ryan accused President Barack Obama of leading the country toward greater debt, encouraging "crony capitalism" by picking winners and losers, and villainizing his political opponents who propose possible solutions.
"We just fundamentally believe we owe the country a choice of two futures," he told the crowd.
Ryan is the author of the conservative "Path to Prosperity" budget that Republicans pushed through the House in late March, which is expected to play a prominent role in the fall campaign for the White House. Its supporters say it is a fiscally responsible plan that cuts spending in an effort to protect future generations and the "American Dream," while Democrats accuse Ryan and his plan of trying to gut Medicare and slice social programs in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who was also in Milwaukee on Monday promoting the "Buffett Rule" she sponsored in the House, said that plan would ensure millionaires don't pay less in taxes as a share of their income than middle-class families pay.
"This is just an issue of fairness, plain and simple," Baldwin, a Democrat from Madison, said Monday during a conference call with reporters.
She added that it seems there are two systems -- one for "the very wealthy" and one for everybody else.
But Ryan accused Obama and Democrats of trying "to divide us in order to distract us." He said the president is trying to make people think tax increases would only affect top earners like professional athletes, citing Brett Favre and Prince Fielder.
"I'd be OK if it just hits those guys," he joked but said Democrats' tax policies hurt small-business owners and companies, hindering their ability to create jobs.
Ryan, who endorsed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, campaigned with the GOP frontrunner extensively in the days leading up to Wisconsin's April 3 primary. He has been talked about as a possible vice presidential candidate on the Romney ticket, but Ryan said Monday he hadn't discussed it with the former Massachusetts governor and declined to speculate about being his running mate.
Ryan also called on people to support Gov. Scott Walker in his June 5 recall election, which he called the second-most important election in the country after the presidential election.
"What I would say is, courage is on the ballot," Ryan said. "If Scott Walker or these state senators get recalled in June, what governor or state legislator in the future is going to take on these big structural challenges?"
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