The Ryan Pick

If any of you went back and looked to see what I've written about Rep. Paul Ryan in the past, you found that the answer was "almost nothing." There's a couple of reasons for that:

1) I think his heart is in the right place, but,

2) I think his brain is in the wrong place.

I haven't wanted to be too critical of a man who wants the right things, and who was clearly fighting in the right direction, but I also don't think his famous plan begins to approach the scale of the problem we face. I think I know why, too: Rep. Ryan has spent literally his entire adult life in Congress, and so his framework for understanding the problem is the CBO math. He's clearly familiar with the CBO numbers down to the minutiae. The problem is that the CBO numbers intentionally refuse to take account of the true costs we face in terms of entitlements and Federal pensions.

Thus, Rep. Ryan's critics are right: his plan is entirely inadequate. It fixes the problem as the CBO sees it, though not for fifty years: but it doesn't begin to fix the real problem.

I would not have chosen this as the starting line for the battle we are about to wage. If we end up compromising from here, as we are likely to do given that is the political process, we will be beginning from a position that already fails to solve the problems. The NYT is already blasting Rep. Ryan's plan as Armageddon for everything good and right in America, but the truth is that plan pales by comparison to what really needs to be done.

On the other hand, as mentioned, Rep. Ryan's heart is in the right place. If he doesn't understand the scale, he does understand the stakes. When he talks about these things, he talks about saving the country. That's really what is at stake: if we don't come to a repair on these issues, the tensions will tear us apart. If we get to the crisis point without having fixed the entitlement and pension crisis, our nation will dissolve into factions over the question of who gets cut most. These will be life or death questions for everyone involved, because they will have come to be dependent upon the programs that are no longer viable.

That leads me to believe that Rep. Ryan is educable on the question of the scale. This also provides an opportunity for those who have been following this issue, like USA Today (and Mr. Steyn, whom Tex mentions below), to bring the issue to the level of the national debate.

It's a chance, which is more than we seemed likely to get out of this election. In an hour of grave danger, one must be bold in seizing on any chances that Fate sends.


Eric Blair said...

It took a century to get into this state of affairs. It isn't going to be solved in one term.

But at least they're thinking about the problem.

E Hines said...

I have written on this subject (among others; sometimes I drool all over my keyboard) at some length, although not about Ryan in particular. I think Ryan understands very well both the scale of the problem and the fallacies underlying the CBO's numbers. He said, for instance (IIRC) at the Obama "summit" on health care (wherein Obama's primary contribution was to remind "John" that the election was over and Obama had won), that the CBO was operating both from static analysis and on the basis of assumptions dictated to them by Congress.

The Ryan budget, with its MedicX and Social Security reforms, are small potatoes compared to the needed overall solution, but I don't think he considers it anything more than a starting point. Here is a compromise that opens a hole in the dike. That leak becomes a stream, becomes a torrent that washes away the barrier, and reform can be completed.

Of course, this requires a series of confirmatory elections, beginning with 2012.

Eric Hines

MikeD said...

To be fair, he's the VP pick. And contrary to the ridiculous nonsense about "a heartbeat away", VP's tend to really do nothing whatsoever, and their importance is negligible. Short of worrying that Romney would be assassinated (a remote possibility), this does very little other than enhance Ryan's resume.

Miss Ladybug said...


I think it does more than enhance Ryan's resume. I see Romney making use of Ryan's knowledge and expertise and also grooming him into a stand-out executive (the experience Ryan isn't as strong on, though I'd say he's got as much or more than Obama had in 2008). If Romney wins and does well, is see Ryan the *next* next President...

Grim said...

Ryan's experience is purely legislative, but that could be OK. As VP, he has two main jobs: learning to be President, and voting in the Senate if there are ties. Since the Senate is more likely to be closely divided than the House, a Representative for a Senate vote may be a good trade.

More, since the agenda they are now running on (which is really Ryan's agenda) has a heavy legislative component, having a VP who understands the legislature is a plus. I wouldn't normally be thrilled with a career -- indeed a lifelong -- Congressional figure, but as I said, it's hard to dislike someone whose heart is so obviously in the right place. He's trying his best, and he's put himself where he thinks he can do the most good.

MikeD said...

Sorry ML, perhaps it sounded flippant, but that was exactly what I meant when I said it was resume enhancer. As it sits right now, I would probably be disinclined to vote for Ryan at the head of a Presidential ticket. If Romney/Ryan wins, then he will gain the experience he lacks and it will enhance his chances to become President following Romney. Thus, his resume will have been improved.

bthun said...

Ryan's young, has a fine mind, good political instincts, from what I've seen, along with a willingness and ability to defend his positions with clarity.

"I don't think he considers it anything more than a starting point. Here is a compromise that opens a hole in the dike. That leak becomes a stream, becomes a torrent that washes away the barrier, and reform can be completed."

Indeed, the art of politicking, and/or horse trading.

The first question is, will the majority of the voting electorate buy in and vote for the GOP ticket? Then will the Congress open the hole or once again paper over the problems hoping someone else will deal with them? Later...

Yup. I'm good with the top of the GOP ticket. Big surprise I'm sure given my repeated admissions that I've been on the A.B.O. train since, well, shortly after the shock wore off that enough of the electorate would vote to elect the snake-oil salesman in the first place.