The state Democratic Party chairman, Dwight Pelz, and Republican Party chairman, Kirby Wilbur, joined in a rare joint question-and-answer session Wednesday evening organized by the City Club of Tacoma.
Pelz criticized U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan and other GOP ideas going back decades, saying Republicans want to end popular social programs like Social Security and Medicare. Not so, Wilbur said.
Pelz said the Ryan plan goes in the wrong direction by cutting tax rates, contributing
to the deficit:
The fact is, Republicans love deficits, because when the country is broke, they can argue that we can no longer afford Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public
employee unions in Wisconsin, or compassion for the poor.
“Kirby, this is my present to you: I think we should raise taxes” to fund government programs, Pelz said. “You’ll have fun with that.”
“I will,” Wilbur said.
Wilbur called for changes in Social Security benefits, saying the program’s “pyramid scheme” doesn’t pencil out for a modern era”s longer lifespans:
Mock the Ryan plan, but it’s a plan, a place to start this discussion. We need entitlement reform. See, there’s a problem with Social Security. It was based on the idea that they’d start paying retirement at 65 when the average age was 62 and when the average American family had about four children. It was a pyramid scheme, plain and simple. … Americans aren’t having children like we did. The pyramid has
reversed. We’re not dying at 62, we’re dying at 80 and 85.
The pair touched on the slow budget negotiations in Olympia, with Wilbur blaming House Democrats and Speaker Frank Chopp. Wilbur said the Senate is “ready to go” on a balanced budget and the House is holding it up. He said House leaders seem to be in no hurry.
He didn’t criticize the substance of either budget. It might be hard for Republicans to make political hay of the Legislature’s work this year, since members of their own party are helping write the Senate plan.
But GOP involvement will also make it harder for Democrats to cast Republicans as obstructionists. Asked about writing the Senate budget in a bipartisan way, Pelz allowed that it was a good idea but quickly turned to the national news, criticizing Republicans in other state capitals and D.C. for being partisan.
Barring major surprises in the budget endgame, I’m guessing both parties might tend to avoid Olympia in their campaign talking points.