Hours after President Obama held a town hall meeting on job creation Monday morning at the Mountain View headquarters of social networking site LinkedIn, three top House Republicans held a similar forum at the Palo Alto headquarters of Facebook.
The discussion and question-and-answer session with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.; and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield; and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, D-Wisc., was moderated by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who held a $35,800-a-plate fundraising dinner for President Obama on Sunday night at her Atherton home.
Generally, they spoke about the need to reform the tax code to eliminate corporate loopholes so that everyone pays, and so everyone pays less; reforming entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid so that we can afford them; and bringing the kind of innovative interaction to Washington that has made Facebook such a success.
Cantor said Republicans in coming weeks will be looking at rolling back regulations that they believe tie the hands of small businesses. Among those are environmental protection rules, which must be balanced with business’ needs, he said; they’ll also try to roll back some of the recent financial reforms that have made it too hard for small businesses to get credit and capital.
McCarthy said the key to entitlement reform could be a bipartisan agreement that neither side will demonize the other, but instead, everyone will put all options on the table and let the public decide. He exhorted citizens to “join in, engage, do not sit back.”
Ryan said he didn’t want to serve on the new Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction – often called the “super committee” – because he believes there’s so much more to do beyond that panel’s appointed task. Achieving $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction would be “a nice step in the right direction,” he said, but he’s contemplating a proposal to enact a whole new budgeting process to control future spending.
In a “lightning round” of mini-questions from Sandberg, Ryan opted for entitlement reform even over tax reform. “Our government, both political parties, has been making promises to people we can’t keep,” he said, so current recipients should be protected but future benefits should be reigned in with higher retirement ages and wage-indexed benefits for Social Security and private insurance options under Medicare.
The nation is at “a very precarious time right now” and must have a safety net for the needy, he said, but not “a hammock that lulls able bodied people into lives of complacency.”
Ryan will speak and answer questions on health care reform tomorrow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.