Paul Ryan (R-Wis) for President?

No, I don't want him to be President.  I don't want him to run.  But I got your attention?  Good.  Pay attention to this man, because if he continues to win the war of ideas, he's destined for a political future that will likely impact our country for years to come.  A party looking for a way to re-introduce supply-side economic theory to our economic policy just needs an effective enough messenger.  They have found that messenger in seventh term Congressman Paul Ryan.

Ryan is a Wisconsin Representative who, apart from dominating the news cycle in recent days, is chairman of the House Budget Committee. He is also a senior member of the House Ways and Means committee. Such committees exist to make important determinations about budgets and taxes how they are allocated and spent. Ryan has made a name for himself in recent days with his Road Map proposition to solve nation's budget woes. He has also lifted his profile with his vocal and ceaseless hammering on Democrats about their failure to aggressively confront the budget with sharp ideas. There are rumblings about his being a Republican candidate for President next year, and, by my estimation, he's one of the strongest contenders his party has at the moment.

I think Paul Ryan has a few things going for him. For one, he is politically courageous in a field of politicians too afraid to say anything that doesn't fall into vague, unclassifiable categories. Additionally, Ryan is Roman Catholic, and say what you will about the role of faith in politics, but I'd say this gives him an edge over a few of the other Protestants rumored to run. Ryan voted for the bailout of financial institutions in 2008, which works against him in some regard but gives him a 'centrist edge' over the more alienating and fanatical elements of his party.

Speaking of that, Congressman Ryan has managed to separate himself from the nasty tone coming out of the Tea Party in Washington this year, instead presenting his reduced tax, reduced Government, reduced spending philosophy in the tone of a responsible adult. He was once a speech writer for Jack Kemp, a well known advocate of supply-side economics. I don't think calling Paul Ryan a 'Kemp disciple' or 'Reaganomics' acolyte' is totally out of line.

Ryan is numbers guy and a budget wonk. He has run against Democrats and Libertarians and beat them handily. His determination to mold the debate on the Budget stands in sharp relief to the many Democrats in Congress, many whom are still fumbling for inoffensive ways to express their political philosophies. The best general description for the debate being waged - and won by Ryan and his Republican colleagues on sheer force of message - is the argument between Keynesian and Supply-side economic theory, and, of course, what the role of Government should be.

These ideological tenets are not new. But Ryan's profile seem destined to expand. Obama's meteoric rise was proof that someone in Congress can, by sheer force of their influence on their party and in politics, suddenly find themselves playing a role much different from that they've set out to play, and I think Ryan has a shot.

He spearheaded the Republican Road Map, a fiscal plan in response to the Federal Deficit.  If this isn't obvious, just go over to the web site. His name and picture are very prominently displayed on the site's splash page. His good looks are a bit goofy, but they're there, and the Republicans are testing the waters with his visage to see how the public responds.

Ryan does not believe in doing away with, but rather limiting Government to a few essential functions. One of those functions, for instance, is its role in 'rectifying market failures.'  Those failures, by the way, were caused by the push to limit Government in regulating financial activity.

'Big Government is lethargic Government,' he says. 'A Government whose size and scope is not properly limited will always seek to raise taxes before it looks for ways to innovate and do more with less.' This philosophy informs much of Ryan's budgetary spending philosophy. In a recent interview with Time, Ryan insisted that the model of increased spending leading to increased growth is a model that has been 'totally discredited.'

To be fair, there are a lot of economists on board with what Ryan is suggesting. He would like to see a reduction in capital gains tax, corporate income tax, estate tax and alternative minimum tax (a tax that, and it bears mentioning, was enacting to discourage wealthy individuals and corporations from dodging their tax responsibilities). Additionally, Ryan would like to end Medicare, limit Medicaid, and privatize Social Security.
He is a noted supporter of the voucher system, a system that (for lack of time and space here) represents the privatization of health care, education, and other heretofore public institutions in the name of a decreased tax burden and increased competition, and ostensibly, greater choice.

The White House's only real response to the Ryan plan has been to credit it for being a plan, but then dismiss it out of deference for 'fairness and shared sacrifice.' While this is an ideological retort, it is not a plan.

If you need more evidence that Ryan is being preened for a potential bid, consider that he provided us with the rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union just a few months ago. While not compelling political theater, Ryan's rebuttal, while a bit oily, had enough meat to keep him relevant.  Now, just a few months later, he's practically front page news.

Congressman Ryan is here because he has political discipline.  His ideologies may be wrongheaded and his approach not conciliatory enough to get results, but he's displaying something that looks a bit like leadership, and you'd be hard pressed to find that in many places nowadays. In this political stage where unfair generalizations, ranting, anger, and drama seize the news cycle on any given day, it is rare for someone with a plan and a strategy to come along.

In fact, anyone who can challenge opponents without lowering oneself to cheap attacks is a valuable commodity.  The freshman Tea Party candidates ushered into office last year are loaded with ideology and very little political realism, discipline or experience.  Ryan is on the cusp of their agenda, and while his fiscal plan is calling for some major changes in how Government works, he is conveying that message like a Father at the dinner table espousing the important of eating one's vegetables.  That perfect storm has given him relatively favorable coverage.

Paul Ryan's success is not just a sign of the times, but a reminder that in politics, it's rarely the message that is self perpetuating, but rather the message and the tenacity and consistency of that message over time.  It's important to remember that.

I could go more into the number specifics of the competing plans on the table this year, but it would miss the point of what I'm trying to say.  Ideology and message are the players in this game, and the numbers and statistics are bystanders.  The public responds to a strong message delivered with empathy and forcefulness, which is something (by all accounts) the Democrats seem unwilling or unable to do.


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