But are Ryan's ideas any good for the public good?

Submitted: Oct 23, 2015
Badlands Journal editorial board

 The Chicago Tribune, clarion voice of the Midwest, calls Paul Ryan, R-WI, leading candidate for speaker of the House of Representatives, a man of ideas. To be exact, the Tribune's editorial board quotes Mitt Romney, whose running mate Ryan was in the presidential election of 2012, "he is a man of ideas who is driven to see them applied for the public good."

But what are the quality of Ryan's ideas? Since they focus on the federal budget, we consulted Dean Baker, an economist, on the subject.  We've listened carefully to Baker ever since he drew our attention to the complete instability of the housing boom and its dangers as early as 2004.

Ryan may not be as dumb as McCarthy but he might be even narrower, more ambitious and ruthlessly destructive of democracy as Gingrich, another so-called "man of ideas," a college professor who hated government and had never had a job in the private sector in his life. Ryan may not have worked in the private sector beyond summer jobs when he was in college. Of course that doesn't count his great political work on behalf of corporations and the wealthy few while in office.  -- blj



Chicago Tribune


Paul Ryan, a speaker of ideas

Editorial Board


Paul Ryan will be a different kind of House leader.

John Boehner is cigarettes and golf; Paul Ryan is the P90X workout and bowhunting. Boehner is 65; Ryan is 45. Boehner is stepping down as speaker of the House, and it looks as though Ryan soon will be stepping up. If Ryan has his way, he won't be just a different speaker; he'll be a different kind of speaker.

House members typically climb the ladder to leadership posts by learning how to cut deals, raise money, forge relationships and avoid risks. Boehner's skills in those areas gained him the top job, but he found it to be less a matter of leading troops than herding cats. "Garbage men get used to the smell of bad garbage," he said a few weeks ago, explaining how he endured the incessant aggravations. But then he made his break.

Ryan hopes to avoid the snares that caught Boehner, who faced the constant threat of being toppled by Republican members averse to compromise. The rangy Wisconsinite didn't want the job, and he had to be persuaded to run. By forcing the conservative Freedom Caucus to support him without apparent concessions on his part, he starts from a position of enviable strength. Maybe the cats will become a bit more cooperative.

The biggest difference is that Ryan made his name not as a political operator but as a political thinker. He says he wants the GOP to go "from being an opposition party to being a proposition party," and if anyone is equipped to lead that change, it's Ryan. Mitt Romney, who picked him as his running mate in 2012, said recently that "he is a man of ideas who is driven to see them applied for the public good."


Ryan has been an able exponent of conservative themes on a range of issues. But his biggest contribution has been on the greatest challenge facing Congress and the country: the steadily building fiscal crisis. Washington has saddled taxpayers with trillions in future obligations, which grow every day, and Ryan understands that this approach is unsustainable as well as unconscionable.


In 2011, as chairman of the budget committee, he produced a blueprint to cut spending by $6.2 trillion over the coming decade, compared to the administration's plan. Ryan's proposal addressed burgeoning entitlements by revamping future Medicare benefits for those now younger than 55 and converting federal Medicaid outlays to block grants, allowing states more options in delivering health care to the poor.


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