Ryan willing to grab ‘third rail’ of entitlement reform
For those who harbored doubt about Mitt Romney’s willingness to play bold, doubt no longer. The selection of Paul Ryan was the single boldest choice Romney could have made, framing the election choice between the fiscal miscreant, President Barack Obama, as starkly as one could imagine.
Romney simply could not have picked a more formidable person – someone with overwhelming intellect, keen understanding of economic and budgetary nuance, ability to navigate the cross-currents of Washington, courage by the buckets, charisma by the truckloads and vision by the metric mile – than Ryan. That is what makes Romney’s selection safe.
What makes his selection bold is that Ryan is the only man in Washington with the wattage and moxie to put pen to pad and spell out an all-in plan to reform entitlements, cut the deficit, chop the debt and lay groundwork for wholesale reform of the federal tax code.
Any proposal as big as the Ryan Plan brings huge risk, of course, but Romney pushed all that to the wind.
Until now, Romney has been Mr. Cautious. His candidacy has been a wall-to-wall exercise in plodding, disciplined, methodical consistency – did I mention cautious, too? Most days, even when effective, it hasn’t been exactly exhilarating to watch.
But all that changed when Ryan entered stage right. Everything most people thought they knew about Romney’s candidacy went out the window. Romney, it seems, has his sights on something bigger than eking out an electoral win.
To wrestle the debt, or not. To reform Washington, or not. To fix the economy and confront looming calamities with bold leadership, or stay the course plotted by Greece. To rebalance a Medicare program with an unfunded liability of $100 trillion or re-elect that blundering dunderhead Joe Biden. These are the questions that, thanks to Ryan’s selection, will dominate the presidential discourse over the next 75 days.
The Ryan pick was transformative because Ryan’s record is transformative.
In the nation’s capital full of weasels, wusses and wannabes, Ryan is the antithesis of all that. While most members of Congress quaked or faked in the shadow of a growing fiscal black cloud, Ryan jumped into the fray unafraid, grabbing the “third rail” of American politics, entitlement reform, when no one else has or would. And the Dude has done it with more command and panache than the Old Spice guy.
Sidebar: It’s hard to tell what makes the liberal intelligentsia angrier—the fact that Ryan is so much smarter than they are, or the fact that Ryan is so much cooler. Whatever the case, he’s obviously both. And when Ryan debates Biden, we’ll find out exactly which political party is anti-intellectual.
To understand this man’s gravity, it is important to understand the Ryan Plan in its full and proper historical context. It represents the single largest proposed overhaul of government since LBJ’s Great Society, only in the other direction. Not since Maggie Thatcher busted Great Britain’s unions and denationalized her country has another western leader levied so thorough and so bold a plan to tame big government as Ryan.
The Reagan Revolution, for all its enduring glory, was largely a fight over the revenue side of the federal estate. While there’s plenty to like in the Ryan Plan for tax cutters, at its core it restructures, retools and resets government in ways more bold than even Reagan offered.
And but for that droll, crusty Mormon who refuses to release his tax records (by whom I mean Harry Reid, of course), the Ryan Plan might already be law, at least in part.
As one would expect, Obama pounced quickly on the Ryan nod. The usual stuff came from Mobsters of Hope in Chicago: Romney loves the rich as much as Ryan hates the old, and they both want to fire your grandpa just in time to make sure your grandma dies of cancer.
But it all sounds like so much background noise in the shadow of a pick as glorifyingly gutsy as Romney’s selection of Ryan. This go-round, Obama will have to do better than the same old carpet-bomb imbued with the usual bile. Who knows? With Ryan chasing him around the country, the president might even be forced to outline a plan to clean up the mess that’s accumulated on his watch.
He could call it the Obama Plan. It would be four years late.
Josh Penry is a former minority leader of the Colorado Senate. He is a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.