The Ticket — 2012

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Mitt Romney has been touring the nation in his plush campaign bus with signage advertising a “plan” — problem is, he still hadn’t articulated it … until today. His plan has been revealed to be Paul Ryan, beloved of the Koch’s and cooed over by conservatives as “The One.”

Ryan is a career politician and a lightweight, heavy on potential but short on resume. Still, we are in very radical territory now, Mitt embracing not only the right-wing base but the Tea Party itself, whose jones’ing for Paul’s skewering of ‘entitlement’ programs — and the basic gutting of all things governmental besides roads and airports — meets their fantasy of a New Republican Order. The budget Mr. Ryan proposed for the Pubs some months back is so radical to government as we know it that even the Rightwing Political-Guru, Charles Krauthammer, said of it: “House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has just released a recklessly bold, 73-page, 10-year budget plan.. At 37 footnotes, it might be the most annotated suicide note in history.”

Romney has already tried to distance from the radicalism of Ryan’s budget but it’s much too late — he defended and embraced it during the nomination debates, prompting Newt Gingrich to identify the Ryan plan as “right-wing social engineering” in one of his candid gaffes. Lefty’s know that GOP austerity is on the wrong side of history now, although the nation will still dangle our toes off the edge of the cliff for the next three months– we love to scare ourselves witless. It shows Republican desperation with their losing policy choices that they’ve sacrificed Ryan to the cause well in advance of his projected political canonization in 2020, if not four years from now.

Digby has gone after Ryan for months now, as she is as offended by the Ayn Rand movement as am I and Paul Ryan is a true and sincere believer (except for the atheism, of course.) Ryan’s Libertarian streak found a home with Rand’s cold philosophy early and nothing much has changed, despite his recent protestations. Here, from Hullabaloo, is the essence of Ayn Rands philosophy, in her own words:

    The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves. The relationship produces nothing but mutual corruption. It is impossible in concept. The nearest approach to it in reality — the man who lives to serve others — is the slave. If physical slavery is repulsive, how much more repulsive is the concept of servility of the spirit. The conquered slave has a vestige of honor. He has the merit of having resisted and of considering his condition evil. But the man who enslaves himself voluntarily in the name of love is the basest of creatures. He degrades the dignity of man, and he degrades the conception of love. But that is the essence of altruism.

Paul Ryan is, admittedly, a big risk for Mitt and he’s a pretty cautious guy. Still, he’s been unable to shake his brand of privilege so he’s turned to embrace it. This is a Plutocracy ticket, make no mistake — and in case you wondered what happened to the jobs and growth agenda, too bad, so sad — we’re going to fight this battle on the playing fields of Medicare and Social Security, food stamps and the Affordable Care Act, education and Neocon militarization.

I’m struck that the Prez and the Prez Contender are both enigmas (although I can see the warts on Romney easier than those on Obama; they’re Republican warts, I guess — black, white and apparent: no nuance.) Meanwhile, the Veep and the VP Contender are both wysiwyg- types: what you see is what you get, they both let their personality hang out, both full of easy Irish charm and bullshit and prone to take their lumps wherever they find them.

Still, this is shaping up to be a cross-wired campaign: Obama should be debating Ryan and Biden should take a crack at Mitt … but whoever takes on who, the sooner the American people get a sense of this guy, the better. According to Mark Blumenthal, writing on Ryan as an unknown, when Lefty focus groups informed poll-takers that Romney supported the Ryan budget plan, championing ‘ending Medicare as we know it’ while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, participants “simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.” We need to make them believe because these guys are serious as a heart attack.

Much is going to be made of how likeable Ryan is, how disciplined, yadda. Doesn’t mean he won’t take advantage of the system to fill up the old checkbook, etc. He is, after all, the numbers cruncher for the GOP. Some might call it influence peddling — others, just “bid’ness as usual.”

One last comment. Wisconsin seems an improbable Petrie dish for democracy’s last stand, but that’s how it’s working out. The disappointing result of the recent gubernatorial recall of Scott Walker hit the Left hard and jazzed the Right. While WI is still a state heavily invested in labor unions and the working class, big money is still talking loudly and Ryan is a Wisconsin boy. In a state heavily influenced by Koch Industries (second largest for-profit in the US of A,) Ryan is product of a solid and well-off Catholic family. He and Mitt get along like peas in a pod, both secure in family and resources — if not self-image. You get the sense both are fighting invisible demons that only heart-work will heal. There’s nothing “adult” about the Rand philosophy and these two need to be stopped in their tracks!

The psychic and actual damage, the karmic cost, of enforcing such a national plan simply boggles the mind.

Who’s Paul Ryan? Here are the informative reads and a few links. I’ve posted just a portion of the don’t-miss Atlantic piece, which came out prior to this announcement as did the Nichols piece from the Nation. The Begala piece made me laugh, as always. For your weekend reading pleasure, then, a collection!


Top 5 Worst Things About Paul Ryan’s Record
Alison McQuade, Emily’s List
August 11, 2012

GOP Budget Doesn’t Even Say the Word “Veteran”
Jon Soltz, via HuffPo

Mitt Romney’s VP Pick Resurfaces Fundamental Question: Do We Dismantle The Social State?
Howard Fineman, AOL for HuffPo

NEW YORK — So much for the meme that the 2012 presidential campaign was just a content-free snarkfest of attack ads about secret offshore tax havens and failed Obama promises.

By choosing Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate, Mitt Romney assures that the election contest will be in public what it already was beneath the surface: a referendum on the centrality of government social-service programs to the real lives of average Americans.

For the first time since Ronald Reagan, the (now) Tea Party-infused Republican Party is running as a full-throated foe of what the Democrats — usually with bipartisan votes — built over three-quarters of a century: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, federal education spending and tax credits designed to support and enhance middle-class life.

In one of the more memorable and significant Freudian slips, Romney introduced Ryan in Norfolk, Va., on Saturday morning by calling him “the next president.” And in terms of ideological purity and drive, it’s true. If this ticket wins, Ryan and his Randian, libertarian, anti-federal philosophy will be the beating heart of the Romney administration — despite the Romney campaign’s immediate effort to distance itself from the Ryan budget.

A generation ago, Rep. Jack Kemp of Buffalo, N.Y., Ryan’s political role model, pushed the Reagan administration to adopt his plan to slash income tax rates. The “Kemp-Roth” tax cuts of 1981 were the result. It began a 30-year-long era of starving the Treasury in the name of spurring private spending. Democratic sages such as Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) accused the GOP of having a deeper motive: to force a reduction in the size of the “welfare” state by denying it funds.

Instead, administrations of both parties have borrowed money and essentially kept the Social State intact.

Now the issue is: Do we keep it and pay for it? Or dismantle it and end modern government as we know it?

The central concept of the Ryan budget is the direct descendant of Jack Kemp’s original thinking: give people a direct (and easily limited) cash grant for social services and let them shop for them on their own, or invest the money on their own. Kemp managed to get the idea enshrined into a housing voucher program at HUD, where he was secretary.

The experiment ended badly.

Now it’s back, and a hundred times the size.

In part because of Ryan’s budget — endorsed by the GOP in the House and, in general terms, by Romney — and in part because of hard times in the economy, the president’s campaign long ago became, at its core, a defense of the Social State as we know it.

In a tough economic climate, he says, the last thing we can afford to do is dismantle the existing machinery of defined-benefit guarantees in Social Security, Medicare and other programs.

Ryan, and now Romney, are now saying just the opposite: that in tough times we can’t afford not to dismantle that machinery, so taxes can be kept low or cut further.

That’s the essence of what the election is about. It always was. Now it’s out in the open. The functional question is: Which party will have the mandate — and control of Congress — to decide the final outcome of the debate? ++

Paul Ryan? Seriously?
John Nichols, the Nation by Commondreams

Of course Paul Ryan wants to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate.Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan is not just a hypocrite, he’s a ‘big spend’ hypocrite whose reputation as a ‘budget whiz kid’ is betrayed by the stunningly expensive legacy of policies he proudly supports.The hyper-ambitious political careerist—who has spent his entire adult life as a Congressional aide, think-tank hanger-on and House member—is looking for a road up. And he is sly enough to recognize that, like Dick Cheney with George Bush, he could be more than just a vice president in the administration of so bumbling a character as Romney.

Ryan figured Romney out months ago.

The two men bonded during the Wisconsin presidential primary campaign in late March and early April. They got on so well that Ryan was playing April Fool’s Day jokes on the Republican front-runner—giving Romney a rousing introduction before the candidate came from behind a curtain to find the room where he had expected to be greeted by a crowd of supporters was empty.

Romney loves the prep-school fraternity that he has with Ryan, and every indication is that the former governor would be delighted to add the House Budget Committee chairman to his ticket.

The conversations have occurred. The vetting has been completed. It could happen. And, indeed, as the time for choosing nears, the Ryan buzz has been amplified—mainly by the Wisconsin congressman’s friends at The Weekly Standard, which has editorialized enthusiastically on behalf of his selection, and other conservative media outlets. But, now, even ABC’s “Veep Beat” headlines “Paul Ryan’s Rising Momentum.”

There’s just one problem.

Vice presidential nominees are supposed to help tickets, not hurt them.

Romney clearly needs help. Just back from a disastrous trip to Europe and the Middle East, mired in controversies about the “vulture capitalism” he practiced at Bain Capital and his refusal to release tax returns that his dad—former Michigan governor and 1968 Republican presidential contender George Romney—said contenders for the Oval Office had a a responsibility to share with the voters, Romney could use a boost.

But Ryan would be a burden, not a booster, for a Romney-led ticket.

Like Romney, Ryan is a son of privilege who has little real-world experience or understanding. He presents well on Sunday morning talk shows and in the rarified confines of Washington think tanks and dinners with his constituents—the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street—but his record in Congress and the policies he now promotes are political albatrosses.

Some Republicans, perhaps even Romney, do not get this.

But the Obama campaign recognized, correctly, that Ryan’s positioning of himself as the point man on behalf of an austerity that would remake America as a dramatically weaker and more dysfunctional country makes him the most vulnerable of prominent Republicans.

Ryan scares people who live outside the “bubble” of a modern conservative movement that thinks the wealthiest country in the world is “broke” and that Ayn Rand is an literary and economic seer.

The House Budget Committee chairman imagines himself as a high priest speaking unfortunate truths about debts and deficits, the unforgiving foe of social spending who would gladly sacrifice Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on the altar of debt reduction. Ryan has branded himself well within Republican circles, so well that he has parlayed himself into contention for the vice presidential nod. To get that nomination, however, Ryan must count on the prospect that the party that takes as its symbol the memory-rich elephant will suddenly suffer a spell of forgetfulness. That’s because the Republican congressman from Wisconsin, for all his bluster, is anything but a consistent advocate for fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets. He is, in fact, a hypocrite.

Or, to be more precise, a hypocritical big spender—at least when Wall Street, the insurance industry and the military-industrial complex call.

Ryan has been a steady voter for unwise bailouts of big banks, unfunded mandates and unnecessary wars. Few members of Congress have run up such very big tabs while doing so little to figure out how to pay the piper. How has Ryan gotten away with his fool-most-of-the-people-most-of-the-time politics?

For the most part, he has until recently flown under the radar—dazzling fellow Republicans with fiscal fancy footwork, while dancing around weak Democratic opposition in his home district.

But no more. This year, Ryan is being called out by an able challenger with actual experience in the private sector, as well as local government.

Rob Zerban, the congressman’s Democratic challenger, is not fooled by Ryan’s budgetary blathering.

Zerban is familiar with Ryan’s record. And he has been calling the budget committee chairman out on his “faux fiscal credentials.”

”Congressman Paul Ryan can grandstand about the debt all he wants, but at the end of the day, Ryan is a root cause of many of the financial issues our country faces today,” says Zerban.”From supporting two unfunded wars, to dumping millions of senior citizens into the Medicare Part D ‘donut hole’ while tying the hands of the government to negotiate prescription drug prices, and from fighting for subsidies for Big Oil that his family personally benefits from, to supporting the unfunded Bush tax cuts for his wealthiest campaign contributors, Paul Ryan’s hypocrisy is astounding.”

Even as national Republicans “vet” Ryan as a potential running mate for Mitt Romney, Zerban has been revealing the reality of a congressman who may talk the talk but who has never walked the walk.

“Congressman Ryan fell down on the job, and is now trying to push the blame for his bad policy decisions onto President Obama,” says Zerban. “Congressman Ryan had ten years in Congress—almost all with a House Republican majority—to reduce the deficit, prior to President Obama’s election. He did nothing.”

That’s right.

If, by some chance, Paul Ryan were to become the Republican nominee for vice president, the whole country would be talking about his duplicity when it comes to the balancing of budgets.

Ryan’s first vulnerability would be the legitimate concern about his willingness to rip apart the social safety net, under the guise of “reforms” that would undermine and eventually destroy Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

But under the serious scrutiny to which he would finally be subjected, Ryan would be revealed as something worse than a fiscal fabulist.

He would be revealed as a hypocrite of the highest order. Americans can handle hard truths and bold ideas. But they’re not so good with hypocrisy.

And they wouldn’t be so good with Paul Ryan. ++

With Ryan, Romney Has the Plutocrat Ticket
By choosing Paul Ryan—the guy who wants to slash taxes on the rich and gut the government—Romney shows he’s decided to go nuclear in the class war.
Paul Begala, The Daily Beast
Aug 11, 2012

In selecting Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has doubled-down on the one thing he has never flip-flopped on: economic elitism. Romney, born to wealth, has selected Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, who was also born to wealth. As the former University of Oklahoma football coach, Barry Switzer, once said of someone else: both these guys were born on third and thought they hit a triple.

There’s nothing wrong with inherited wealth. Lord knows great presidents from FDR to JFK came into their fortunes through the luck of birth. But there is something wrong with winners of the lineage lottery who want to hammer those who did not have the foresight to select wealthy sperm and egg.

Finally, we have peered into Mitt Romney’s core. It is neither pro-choice nor pro-life; neither pro-NRA nor pro-gun control; neither pro-equality nor antigay. But it is pro-wealth and very anti–middle class. Mitt Romney has decided to go nuclear in the class war.

Paul Ryan, the darling of the New York–Washington media elite, is almost certainly not the most qualified person Romney could have picked. Unlike governors like Chris Christie or Tim Pawlenty, or a former high-ranking White House official like Rob Portman, Ryan has never run anything larger than his congressional office or the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. The elite love Ryan because he speaks for more cowardly members of their class; his stridently anti–middle class policies are music to their ears.

You will often hear people who ought to know better dress up Ryan’s savage economic priorities with euphemisms. Ryan wants to “fix” Medicare. No, he doesn’t. He wants to kill it. Saying Paul Ryan wants to “fix” Medicare is like saying the vet wanted to “fix” my dog Major; that which used to work very well no longer works at all—and Major is none too happy with the procedure.

Ryan’s budget is the fiscal embodiment of the deeply evil, wholeheartedly selfish so-called philosophy of Ayn Rand. In fact, Ryan has described Rand as “the reason I got involved in public service,” and reportedly makes staffers read her works.

Think about that. As my buddy James Carville has said, what would all the Best People say if Nancy Pelosi made her staffers read, say, Margaret Sanger? Or if Barack Obama made interns study Das Kapital? Sure, a few months ago, facing Catholic protestors at Georgetown University, Ryan said he renounced Rand. But as the national Catholic weekly, America, wrote, he did not change the substance of a single policy. Some renunciation. It seems to me Ryan has renounced Rand’s politically incorrect atheism, not her morally bankrupt philosophy of Screw Thy Neighbor.

Politically, the choice does the one thing Romney needed least of all: it shifts the focus of the 2012 presidential election away from the soft economy and onto the Ryan—now, Romney-Ryan—budget. The most radical governing document in a generation, the Romney-Ryan budget would dramatically alter America’s basic social compact. No less an expert than Newt Gingrich called it “right-wing social engineering”.

Don’t be fooled. Ryan is no deficit hawk. He voted for all the policies that created the current ocean of red ink: the Bush tax cuts for the rich; the war in Iraq; the Bush Medicare prescription-drug plan, the first entitlement without a dedicated revenue source. Ryan cloaks his brutal budget in the urgent rhetoric of fiscal responsibility, but that’s a Trojan Horse. As the Center for American Progress has noted, under the Romney-Ryan budget, “the national debt, measured as a share of GDP, would never decline, surpassing 80 percent by 2014, and 90 percent by 2022.”

Ryan’s real goal is to destroy the ladder of opportunity for the poor and the middle class. Look at his budget: Medicare would be shattered and replaced with a voucher system wherein seniors would be given a stipend and told to negotiate with the health insurance goliaths. According to the Congressional Budget Office, ten years after the Ryan plan was enacted, seniors would pay $6,400 per year more for the same health care, as the stipend would fail to keep up with projected cost increases.

And that’s just for starters. One out of every four dollars spent on transportation—which is already underfunded—would be cut. Veterans’ benefits would be cut 13 percent from what President Obama says is needed. Young men Paul Ryan voted to send into combat would suffer once more on the home front. Education would be cut, food safety, air traffic control, environmental protection—almost everything that makes us safer, smarter or stronger—would get hammered.

How can a budget so brutal not make a dent in the debt? If you have to ask you have not been paying attention. What is the holy grail for princelings like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan? Of course: tax cuts for the rich. The Tax Policy Center crunched the numbers and found that under Romney’s proposal, 95 percent of Americans would see their taxes go up by an average of $500, but millionaires would receive an extra $87,000 tax cut. The net result: an $86 billion annual shift in the tax burden away from those making over $200,000 a year and onto those making less.

And so Romney Hood has his Friar Tuck. And somewhere in hell, Ayn Rand is cackling with glee. ++

Paul Ryan: Murderer of Opportunity, Political Coward, Candidate for Vice President of the United States
He does not believe in government, and in his political cowardice is a perfect match for Romney
Charles P. Pierce, Esquire

Leave it to Willard Romney, international man of principle, to get himself bullied into being bold and independent.

Make no mistake. In his decision to make Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from Wisconsin, his running mate, Romney finally surrendered the tattered remnants of his soul not only to the extreme base of his party, but also to extremist economic policies, and to an extremist view of the country he seeks to lead. This is unimaginable to those of us who lived here under Romney’s barely perceptible stewardship of the Commonwealth (God save it!). If he’d even hinted that he agreed with a fraction of a smidgen of a portion of the policies on which Ryan has built his career, Romney would have been hanging from the Sacred Cod by the middle of 2005. And it’s hard not to notice that the way the decision got leaked — in the dead of a Friday night, with the Olympics still going on, after two weeks in which Romney and his campaign had demonstrated all the political skills of a handball — fairly dripped with flopsweat.

(And how’d you like to be poor Tim Pawlenty, being told by Tagg Romney that he’ll be riding in the roof carrier to Iowa again, with nothing in his future except, maybe, a couple of bucks at Christmas.)

Which is not to say this isn’t a shrewd move. In one great swoop, Willard has recaptured a good portion of the elite political media, which has been crushing on Ryan’s “courage” to take on the “tough choices” — none of which, it should be pointed out, likely will affect Ryan, who’s already got himself an education out of the social safety net he now intends to shred, and certainly will never affect the haircut at the top of the ticket, or his great-grandchildren, for all that — and the coverage of the pick in the middle of the night showed that many of our finer chattering heads are already practicing tying the stem of the cherry with their tongues in preparation for covering the new Republican ticket. On CNN, at about 1:35 this morning, Wolf Blitzer was already warning Democrats not to get too cocky in the face of Paul Ryan’s mighty intellect. “In 1980,” Wolf told us, “Democrats were high-fiving when the Republicans nominated Ronald Reagan.”

(And can we have an end to that myth, please? At this point in the nominating process in 1980, the Democratic party was ripping out its own guts in the worst intraparty squabble since the blood ran in Grant Park in 1968. I can assure you that the Reagan people knew this to be true, and a lot of the Democrats, especially the ones lined up behind Ted Kennedy, knew full well what a wounded incumbent Carter was, because many of them had gone out of their way since 1977 to wound him. The regulars hated him as much as they’d hated George McGovern in 1972. The difference was that Carter had won. Liberty Under Siege, by the late Walter Karp, is the ur-text on this subject. We continue.)

And Gloria Borger ran a pre-taped interview in which she seemed to be struggling with the issue of whether it would be unprofessional to ask Paul Ryan to prom.

In addition, Romney now has forced the administration itself to confront its own silly attempts to woo Ryan as a serious man of policy back in the day. Granted, they split rather permanently last April, when the president, correctly, referred to Ryan’s “budget” as “thinly veiled social Darwinism.” (Ryan got all sad about how things had deteriorated.) But, prior to that, the president had treated Ryan as though the president were, oh, I don’t know, a CNN anchor or something, specifically wooing him prior to the big health-care summit back in 2010, when everybody was oh-so-reasonable while the howler monkeys were out across the dim horizon, photoshopping bones through the president’s nose. Nonetheless, it can be argued — and I’m fairly sure it will be — that Ryan is the logical end of any Grand Bargain the White House strikes on the economy and on debt reduction. And, if you have committed yourselves to that latter purpose over most others, then it’s harder for you to argue against a guy who’s more committed than you are to your own ultimate goal.

I have none of those problems.

Paul Ryan is an authentically dangerous zealot. He does not want to reform entitlements. He wants to eliminate them. He wants to eliminate them because he doesn’t believe they are a legitimate function of government. He is a smiling, aw-shucks murderer of opportunity, a creator of dystopias in which he never will have to live. This now is an argument not over what kind of political commonwealth we will have, but rather whether or not we will have one at all, because Paul Ryan does not believe in the most primary institution of that commonwealth: our government.

The first three words of the Preamble to the Constitution make a lie out of every speech he’s ever given. He looks at the country and sees its government as something alien that is holding down the individual entrepreneurial genius of 200 million people, and not as their creation, and the vehicle through which that genius can be channelled for the general welfare.

In the lengthy — and now, very prescient — profile of Ryan that ran in The New Yorker this week, Ryan Lizza pinned him down on this very point. Ryan responded in fluent Weaselspeak….

    When I pointed out to Ryan that government spending programs were at the heart of his home town’s recovery, he didn’t disagree. But he insisted that he has been misunderstood. “Obama is trying to paint us as a caricature,” he said. “As if we’re some bizarre individualists who are hardcore libertarians. It’s a false dichotomy and intellectually lazy.” He added, “Of course we believe in government. We think government should do what it does really well, but that it has limits, and obviously within those limits are things like infrastructure, interstate highways, and airports.”

The fact is that his “budget” will demolish federal spending on those very things, either directly, or by sending the deficit off in the direction of Alpha Centauri. But the quote illustrates something else about Paul Ryan: get him out of his comfort zone of being thought an intellectual by the likes of Louie Gohmert, and of being thought of as a bold thinker by half the buffet-grazers in the Beltway media, and he really is quite the political coward. (In this way, he is a perfect match for the man who picked him.) He does not have the raw balls to explain to the country that, no, he does not believe in government — not the federal government, anyway, and not as it was originally conceived, as the fundamental expression of a political commonwealth. He’s grandfathered his plan to chloroform Medicare so that, despite the deficit that he considers such an urgent problem, nobody alive today who might vote against him will be affected by it. For the same reason, he will not specify the cuts that he will make or the tax “loopholes” —coughMortgageInterestDeductioncough — that he will close. In any way that will come to matter to the people whose lives his policies will make harder and more miserable, Paul Ryan is still the high-school kid living off Social Security survivor benefits and reading Ayn Rand by flashlight under the sheets. Instead, he’s a guy pretending to be something he’s not, and doing so back in Janesville in a very swell Georgian mansion, which just happens to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Which, among other things, means that Paul Ryan, who lies awake at night worrying that The Deficit will come and eat our grandchildren, lives in a house overseen by the National Park Service, which means that he qualifies for a 20-percent investment tax credit for the house he lives in. Of course, his “budget” would largely decimate the NPS, but that would be only those parts of it enjoyed by other people. Yes, Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver, has done very well by the federal government that he seeks to dismantle. Come to think of it, so has Willard Romney, although we may never know exactly how well he’s done by it.

It turns out this is a match made in heaven, after all.

Of course, it still could be that they’re just trying to give poor Paul Krugman a stroke. ++

How Paul Ryan captured the G.O.P.
Ryan Lizza, New Yorker
August 6, 2012

One day in March, 2009, two months after the Inauguration of President Obama, Representative Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, sat behind a small table in a cramped meeting space in his Capitol Hill office. Hunched forward in his chair, he rattled off well-rehearsed critiques of the new President’s policies and America’s lurch toward a “European” style of government. Ryan’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all died before their sixtieth birthdays, so Ryan, who is now forty-two, could be forgiven if he seemed like a man in a hurry. Tall and wiry, with a puff of wavy dark hair, he is nearly as well known in Washington for his punishing early-morning workouts as he is for his mastery of the federal budget. Asked to explain his opposition to Obama’s newly released budget, he replied, “I don’t have that much time.”

Ryan won his seat in 1998, at the age of twenty-eight. Like many young conservatives, he is embarrassed by the Bush years. At the time, as a junior member with little clout, Ryan was a reliable Republican vote for policies that were key in causing enormous federal budget deficits: sweeping tax cuts, a costly prescription-drug entitlement for Medicare, two wars, the multibillion-dollar bank-bailout legislation known as TARP. In all, five trillion dollars was added to the national debt. In 2006 and 2008, many of Ryan’s older Republican colleagues were thrown out of office as a result of lobbying scandals and overspending. Ryan told me recently that, as a fiscal conservative, he was “miserable during the last majority” and is determined “to do everything I can to make sure I don’t feel that misery again.”

In 2009, Ryan was striving to reintroduce himself as someone true to his ideological roots and capable of reversing his party’s reputation for fiscal profligacy. A generation of Republican leaders was gone. Ryan had already jumped ahead of more senior colleagues to become the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, and it was his job to pick apart Obama’s tax and spending plans. At the table in his office, Ryan pointed out the gimmicks that Presidents use to hide costs and conceal policy details. He deconstructed Obama’s early health-care proposal and attacked his climate-change plan. Obama’s budget “makes our tax code much less competitive,” he said, as if reading from a script. “It makes it harder for businesses to survive in the global economy, for people to save for their own retirement, and it grows our debt tremendously.” He added, “It just takes the poor trajectory our country’s fiscal state is on and exacerbates it.”

As much as he relished the battle against Obama—“European,” he repeated, with some gusto—his real fight was for the ideological identity of the Republican Party, and with colleagues who were content to simply criticize the White House. “If you’re going to criticize, then you should propose,” he told me. A fault line divided the older and more cautious Republican leaders from the younger, more ideological members. Ryan was, and remains, the leader of the attack-and-propose faction.

“I think you’re obligated to do that,” he said. “People like me who are reform-minded ignore the people who say, ‘Just criticize and don’t do anything and let’s win by default.’ That’s ridiculous.” He said he was “moving ahead without them. They don’t want to produce alternatives? That’s not going to stop me from producing an alternative.”

Ryan’s long-range plan was straightforward: to create a detailed alternative to Obama’s budget and persuade his party to embrace it. He would start in 2009 and 2010 with House Republicans, the most conservative bloc in the Party. Then, in the months before the Presidential primaries, he would focus on the G.O.P. candidates. If the plan worked, by the fall of 2012 Obama’s opponent would be running on Paul Ryan’s ideas, and in 2013 a new Republican President would be signing them into law.

Sitting in his office more than three years ago, Ryan could not have foreseen how successful his crusade to reinvent the Republican Party would be. Nearly every important conservative opinion-maker and think tank has rallied around his policies. Nearly every Republican in the House and the Senate has voted in favor of some version of his budget plan. Earlier this year, the G.O.P. Presidential candidates lavished praise on Ryan and his ideas. “I’m very supportive of the Ryan budget plan,” Mitt Romney said on March 20th, in Chicago. The following week, while campaigning in Wisconsin, he added, “I think it’d be marvellous if the

Senate were to pick up Paul Ryan’s budget and adopt it and pass it along to the President.”

To envisage what Republicans would do if they win in November, the person to understand is not necessarily Romney, who has been a policy cipher all his public life. The person to understand is Paul Ryan.

Janesville, Wisconsin, where Ryan was born and still lives, is a riverfront city of sixty-four thousand people in the southeast corner of the state, between Madison and Chicago. Three families, the Ryans, the Fitzgeralds, and the Cullens, sometimes called the Irish Mafia, helped develop the town, especially in the postwar era. The Ryans were major road builders, and today Ryan, Inc., started in 1884 by Paul’s great-grandfather, is a national construction firm. The historic Courthouse section of Janesville is still thick with members of the Ryan clan. At last count, there were eight other Ryan households within a six-block radius of his house, a large Georgian Revival with six bedrooms and eight bathrooms that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“I grew up on the block I now live on,” Ryan told me recently. We were sitting in his new, more spacious Capitol Hill office, one of the spoils of being in the majority after the 2010 elections. “My aunt and uncle live across the street from me,” he said. “My cousin is next door, my brother is a block away.” Ryan’s line of the family strayed from the construction business, which is now run by his cousin Adam. His grandfather and father became lawyers instead…

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“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
~ The Reverand Martin Luther King

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