(CBS News) RALEIGH, N.C. - Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan played the role of grim economic prophet Wednesday, warning of an impending financial crisis in the United States that he said President Obama and Congress aren't trying to prevent because of the potential political consequences.
The House Budget Committee chairman said that the country's current "European policies," like massive spending and unsustainable entitlement programs, are leading to a crisis that could be prevented.
"What if your president, or your congressman or your senator, what if they saw it coming? What if they knew that that crash was coming, what if they knew why it was going to happen, what if they knew approximately when it was going to happen, and what if they knew how to prevent it from happening, and they had time to do that, but they just decided not to 'cause it wasn't good politics?' What would you think of them?" Ryan asked an energized crowd of over 1,000 people at a sheet metal fabrication company. "Friends, that's exactly where we are today, we are on this path that the president has placed us upon where we will turn out just like Europe if we stick with these European policies."
Ryan portrayed himself and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney as leaders who will tackle hard decisions. But Ryan himself has passed up opportunities to take a bipartisan stab at getting a handle on soaring debt. His criticism helped derail efforts by the Gang of Six, a bipartisan group of senators, to come up with a compromise proposal. And in 2010, he helped sink a plan that would have cut the federal debt by $3.8 trillion over 10 years.
Ryan was a member of the Simpson-Bowles commission that came up with that 10-year plan. He called the commission a "success," but voted against its recommendations because he said they were too dependent on tax increases and did not do enough to structurally reform health care spending. The plan won yes votes from 11 of 18 panel members, short of the 14 required for it to be put to a vote in Congress. President Obama ultimately ignored the commission's recommendations.
During the course of the commission's work, Ryan had teamed up with Alice Rivlin, a former Clinton-era budget director, to sketch out ideas for transforming part of the Medicare program into a voucher, or "premium support," system.
Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck said, "A failure to tackle our deficit is one the president's most glaring broken promises. Under his failed leadership, America is facing yet another trillion dollar deficit and saw an unprecedented downgrade of our credit. While the president sat on the sidelines, Congressman Ryan has worked in a bipartisan manner to find solutions to our debt crisis."