Debunking the Myth of Paul Ryan Policy Wonk

Aug 12 2012 Published by under Featured News

Today on ABC’s This Week Paul Gigot, editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal, declared Paul Ryan a serious choice — a man of “ideas”, a policy man. These glittering generalities don’t hold up under inspection.

What Ryan is famous for is his budget — a budget that’s been roundly denounced by Catholics as immoral, by economists as raising the debt, and by Newt Gingrich as radical right wing social engineering. But if we’re using this budget as proof of Ryan’s “ideas”, his budget is actually the brain child of the Libertarian Heritage Foundation. Ryan’s actual record is exceptionally flimsy in the policy department, and his hometown is drowning in unemployment.

Is the Republican Party knee-jerking from Palin so hard that anyone who can speak coherently is now regarded as a policy wonk?

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Transcript from ABC:

GIGOT: So much the better. It speaks well, I think, this choice speaks — well, you know, vice presidents don’t determine elections, these choices, but they do reflect on the nature — the political character of the candidate. And it speaks well of candidate Romney. Ryan is a serious, thoughtful man, a man of ideas. He’s in politics for the right reasons. I’ve known him for 20 years. And he has always been focused on policy and doing the right — what he thinks to be the right thing for the country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you write he best exemplifies the nature and stakes of this election.

GIGOT: Well, I think you have — he talks about it as a generational choice. And I think it’s about the size and scope of government, how intrusive we want government to be, what grows an economy. Is it the private sector that creates jobs? Or is it the government through spending that creates jobs? Ryan understands this. And I think the choice reflects the fact that Romney has concluded that he can’t win this election only by attacking the president and the failed policies of this administration. People know that. But they need something positive, they need something hopeful. Ryan gives him that agenda and that energy and a set of policies that they can now promote.

We hear a lot about Ryan as a “deficit hawk”, which is what Gigot is referring to with his “size and scope of government” generality. Really? The Center for American Progress concluded that the national debt would actually increase under Ryan’s plan. Furthermore, the 98% would be left carrying the burden while the top 2% paid even less:

The latest House Republican budget plan asks low-income and middle-class Americans to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while simultaneously delivering massive tax breaks to the richest 1 percent and preserving huge giveaways to Big Oil. It’s a recipe for repeating the mistakes of the Bush administration, during which middle-class incomes stagnated and only the privileged few enjoyed enormous gains.

So, a deficit hawk drafts a budget that would grow the national debt, with no plan to pay it off?

A deficit hawk voted for all of the policies that dug the hole that Obama is trying to fix? Paul Ryan voted for Bush’s unpaid for Medicare Part D plan. He wasn’t worried about revenue to pay for that policy.

Paul Ryan voted for the Iraq war and the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

Paul Ryan told supporters that he was all for ending oil subsidies, but he voted twice last year to extend oil subsidies. Think Progress notes that while Ryan claims he is for ending oil subsidies, he is “not for raising taxes” – a cute Republican way of saying no to ending oil subsidies.

Paul Ryan was on Social Security after the death of his father, but he is against Social Security for everyone else.

While Ryan was a member of the Latin club, and for this I give him a nod, he is also the same congressman who forced staff to read Ayn Rand and bases his policies on Rand’s fictional novels. Yes, he might appear smarter than Sarah Palin, but basing policy on a novel is nothing short of crazy.

At an Atlas Society meeting celebrating Ayn Rand’s life in 2005, Ryan said that “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” In case that’s not enough, he continued:

I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff.

I always go back to… Francisco d’Anconia’s speech [in Atlas Shrugged] on money when I think about monetary policy.

We have to go back to Ayn Rand. Because there is no better place to find the moral case for capitalism and individualism than through Ayn Rand’s writings and works.

Ryan proudly proclaims that he goes back to a speech given by an imaginary character in a work fiction when he thinks about monetary policy.

The key point is “I grew up reading Ayn Rand.” Yes, but at some point we out grow Ayn Rand, usually in our late teens or early twenties. Rand appeals to young, idealisitic minds who choose to believe that works of fiction are appropriate models for real life governing. That is, quite frankly, beyond disturbing. This is who the media calls a policy wonk?

After being criticized by his church for his Rand love, Ryan denounced in word his heroine, but nary a policy change was seen.

The policy wonk has only passed 2 bills in his 13 years in Congress. Two. You are assuming they were matters of grave policy concern, right? Not so fast. One bill renamed a post office and the other changed the way arrows are taxed.

Ryan has a double major in economics and poly sci. That’s it. That’s how he got the reputation as a policy wonk. Seriously, a policy wonk is someone like Rachel Maddow or our own Jason Easley – a person who has extensively studied public policy. Public policy is applied political science — the creation, implementation, and analysis of public policies, and the operation of governments and public organizations. Public policy is under the umbrella of poly sci, but to equate the two is like saying a biology major is the equivalent of a doctorate in medicine.

A look at Ryan’s hometown tells us that he can’t fix the economy. That is, if by “fix” we mean create jobs. A policy wonk and deficit hawk who has high unemployment in his district? Media Matters reported from local Wisconsin journalists:

Their unemployment rate is double digits,” said Jeff Flynt, a news reporter at WTAQ Radio in Green Bay. “For a state that is trying to turn around the business aspects of the state the fact that Janesville unemployment continues to be pretty high and you have a guy who is known pretty well nationally and has not found a way to help the plant or put something in its place, that may catch” the national media’s attention.

Perhaps it’s an indication of how low the Republican Party has sunk that it seeks intellectual refuge in a man who is best known for a budget that would increase the debt while seriously damaging the social compact – a budget he champions based on philosophy from in a fictional work by someone many people say was not mentally well.

What’s next, Twilight based policy? And no, the two are no different. The only distinction is that Twilight appeals to young women, whereas Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead appeal more to young men. They are all romanticized, fictional works and they are equally unrealistic.

Paul Ryan is not a deficit hawk or a policy wonk, unless we’re grading on a Palin curve and even then, while Palin might not have understood the policy of her administration, she did manage to help her state by redistributing the wealth from the oil companies to the people.

Just like Paul Ryan, Sarah Palin is best known for being against socialism, and yet she was the closest thing we have had to a socialist governor. Paul Ryan is known as a policy wonk and deficit hawk, but he is responsible for raising the deficit via his votes and his budget grows debt.

How do you explain such discrepancies in image versus reality?

Well, I’ll take a shot. Under Paul Ryan’s budget, Mitt Romney really would pay next to nothing in taxes for the next ten years. That is to say, under Ryan’s budget, Mitt Romney would pay 0.82 percent in taxes.

Those are numbers the elite can get behind, and if they have to brand Ryan as a serious wonk and deficit hawk to do it, they will.

Then there is Ryan’s family connection to the natural gas industry. What we have here is yet another ideologue puppet for corporate interests, dressing himself up as a serious policy wonk and deficit hawk when he is, in fact, a lifer in Congress who has only passed two bills and whose home district is suffering high unemployment. Perhaps it’s time for Paul Ryan to put down the Rand and start dealing with reality.

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