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Can GOP Wiz Kid Paul Ryan Save the Day?

In Can You Hear Me Now? on 16/02/2010 at 08:43

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan

After Sarah Palin’s supernova-like appearance onto the public scene in 2008, and the GOP’s legendary propensity to throw stars like her under the bus, many in the Washington leadership have been looking at men like Paul Ryan as an alternative for 2012.

The six-term Wisconsin congressman has most of the credentials that Washington Republicans like, at a time when the GOP seems to have no frontrunner who can pass muster with a majority of the American public. He is young – only 40 years old – he’s reasonably good looking (without the Mitt Romney sprayed down hurricane-proof coif), he sounds independent, and he is a policy wonk.

He also has no, well, almost no executive or private sector experience. He ran his own consulting firm in the fifteen minutes before he ran for congress at age 30, and before that worked as a congressional aid. And he has baggage.

He voted for TARP and the automaker bailout, and then the 90% AIG tax, and then embarrassingly flip-flopped on it.

Paul Ryan has a lot of splainin to do to be a vote getter. Really. How does a congressman explain taxing anyone 90%, and survive the scrutiny of true conservatives and tax-maddened independents? Well, he makes excuses.

But Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s Future Act of 2008 almost passes muster. In it he proposes to freeze non-defense discretionary spending, privatize Social Security and turn Medicare into a voucher program that depreciates against medical costs. Ambitious, huh? Yeah, perhaps too.
But the message might resonate with a public fed up with big government, if it weren’t so … Washington.

Ryan’s “privatized” Social Security has the Uncle Sam’s sticky fingers all over it, essentially creating a mix of private investment and government guarantees. The Medicare plan doesn’t fully kick in until 2021. Eleven years is too long. Although much of the plan is vastly better than Barack Obama’s, it is rife with progressive compromises. The conservative ideal is to wean the public off of government assistance, not to tighten the harness of dependency, and Ryan’s plan doesn’t quite cut it.

The nation will have had, by election time 2012, four years of broken promises and government encroachment extraordinaire in the form of Barack Obama. The country will be looking for sweeping changes that will loosen the shackles of government on our daily lives.

Paul Ryan is a good Republican, better than most after 10 years in Washington. He has the potential of becoming a fine leader and the nation needs his cost-cutting ideas and vision. But if he is to succeed he must stop talking – and at times acting – like a beltway Republican and engage the heartland on heartland terms. That is where the revolution is taking place.


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