Friday, February 5, 2010

Paul Ryan's Presidential Ambitions

Wisconsin conservatives are falling all over themselves trying to bless Paul Ryan with enough Presidential hype to kick start a nascent campaign in the wake of his much ballyhooed budget. Christian Schneider has good look at the pros and cons of a Ryan run, but he's missing one important recent development: the very thing that is propelling Ryan into the conversation about a national office, i.e. his budget, also ends those aspirations.

Ryan's budget may be intellectually interesting, but it's not practical. Republicans are already trying to run away from it. Ryan's budget is also the Elephant's Graveyard of potential attack ads and direct mail pieces to seniors. Some of that push back is already starting to happen. Ryan can get away with it when the only competition for his Congressional seat is a down-on-his-luck union rep from Kenosha, he can't if he's running for the White House.

The good news in all of the attention Ryan's been getting this week is that he earned it the old fashioned way: by grinding out a solution to a difficult policy issue and not, for example, by blurting out an inappropriate comment during a joint session of congress. But the devil is always in the details, and Ryan's budget is full of harsh details that will likely come back to haunt him.

For example: Ryan's budget only seems to fix the federal deficit without any discussion of how draconian cuts in entitlement programs would impact the lives of ordinary Americans. Individual health care spending for the sick would obviously increase. Some states would likely pick up the slack and increase taxes to fund their own welfare programs. In both cases tax-payers merely transfer (potentially much more of their) money that would normally go to the federal government and hand it over to state government or private health care providers. Sure, the federal budget would be tidied up, but individual budgets would be a wreck since there is also no measure to control heath care costs. In other words, Ryan's only looking at half the picture.

I'm going to attribute the "Ryan for President" talk to a couple of very rational motives among Wisco conservatives. The first is homerism -- who doesn't want to see a local kid do well? The second is far more interesting: a desperate desire among conservatives to rally around a candidate that has ideas ... any ideas. Unlike Sarah Palin, Michael Steele or Scott Brown, Paul Ryan comes across as a guy more interested in substance over style and, as the saying goes, "in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king."

1 comment:

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