Three Things About Paul Ryan as Romney’s VP Pick

I loathe Ryan, not least of all because I can now no longer sit in front of the telly (my Netflix queue has been full of British sitcoms) and let my frustration reservedly smolder as I watch the Sunday morning political shows while eating breakfast*, because doing so would inevitably entail putting up with the constant reprieve that, whatever you think about the government or the economy, you have to give the man credit: at least he wants to talk substance and is “bravely” proposing tough solutions!

I.

There is, of course, nothing brave about proposing “bold” plans for dealing with the nation’s current deficit spending and ongoing debt obligations. Paul Ryan is, after all, Chairman of the House Budget Committee. He is, in fact, obligated to do exactly that.

At my job, when I construct cost summaries to help with developing new prices for company products, no one lauds me for doing so. They do not consider my spreadsheets “bold,” or myself courageous, simply because I do what’s listed in my job description. I do not get any bonuses for successfully completing a new quote; it is simply what’s expected of me. I get paid for the work I do, not the work I talk about doing. I have a job, this is how jobs work, this is how the real world works.

What would Paul Ryan know about the real world though? Or the private sector to which he long ago swore unconditional fealty? He has never worked outside of government. And yet the things he has accomplished while working in government are precisely those things he purports to crusade against. Others have thoroughly demonstrated this elsewhere, so I won’t waste time being redundant here, except to say that while Romney can claim a separation, at least in theory, from the economic policies of the previous administration, Ryan cannot. The Congressman likes to gesture boldly at where no man has gone before, the future, but his record of service is rooted firmly in the past. Whatever has happened in the government over the past 10 years, Ryan is as responsible as anyone else.

II.

I find Paul Ryan’s connection to the cult of objectivism fascinating and welcome. How often are we blessed with candidates for high office that can be said to subscribe to an actual philosophy, even if it’s a pseudo one? It could spark a greater call for such candidates in the future even. People made fun of Newt Gingrich’s love of Asimov’s Foundation series, but I love that series, and love the fact that somewhere out there, there are still political candidates who are inspired by literature and the people who write it, good or bad. Because at the very least it feels sincere.

And what I do find repulsive about Ryan is his cynical marketing upon which his entire political image seems to be based. No matter what kinds of scumbag things Newt Gingrich says, you always know you’re getting New Gingrich. Even when he’s lying, or trying to deceive by other means, you’re still getting the genuine article because his ego is simply too big and bombastic to be concealed. The same could be said for Bill Clinton.

Ryan on the other hand has cultivated a personality which never breaks character, always appears calm and reasonable, and couldn’t be less authentic. He doesn’t disagree with his opponents, or their positions when presented in the form of a question from a journalist or talk show host, he simply furrows his brow and stares straight ahead with a look of forlorn but semi-wide-eyed consolation that indicates how confused and sad it is that these opponents are out of touch with reality or would seek so willfully to distort his proposals.

After all, he, Paul Ryan, has firm values and unshakable principles that shape his policy making. At least that’s the image he has promoted, and the one the media has been all too happy to accept. In fact, he represents the most contemptuous manipulation of Libertarian sentiment and Tea Party enthusiasm since the Republican party successfully co-opted Religion. Here I am not referring to the dependable support the party’s candidates receive from the religiously faithful in exchange for a few speeches in Congress and some token amendment proposals, but rather the ethos of religious humility which (See Conor P. Williams) Republicans have monopolized to great effect. How else do you gain street cred and appear grounded when you consistently demand policies which, whether by innocent coincidence or malevolent conspiring, always happen to favor the already wealthy and powerful**? The answer: you plunder and pillage every last religious symbol and tribal allegiance you can find in order that the rich traditions and intimate meanings associated with them can be draped like warm, comforting wool over these otherwise predatorial and discomforting objectives.

As a result, in light of much of what the Congressman has actually accomplished while in office, and despite his rhetorical lip service to small government conservatives and will to power anarchists, I pronounce him a Hipstertarian: someone who totes around dog-eared copies of the Fountain Head and Atlus Shrugged like counter-cultural flare, meant to signal the novelty of an unconventional politics and evoke an authenticity that his otherwise banal supply side policies thoroughly lack. Just as I would suspect many practicing Christians, who subscribe more holistically to the Bible, find the Republicans’ emphasis on gay marriage and abortion rights, to the exclusion of matters regarding employment, public health, and poverty, extremely opportunistic and exploitative, I wonder if many sincere libertarians find Paul Ryan’s penchant for basking in the intellectual heft associated with their principles somewhat manipulative given his poor record on actually following through when the rubber of those principles hit the road of political reality***.

III.

Finally, what I find more disturbing than anything specifically related to Paul Ryan himself, is the fact that such a relatively young and handsome politician, who sits on a very important committee in the House, a Republican controlled House at that, and one which looks to stay that way for the foreseeable future, would rather try to fast-track his climb to the Presidency than continue accruing power in the country’s First Branch of government.

To me this is a good indication of just how petty and insignificant Congress is now perceived to be. If I were a young but experienced legislator, with strong principles and a severe desire to change not just the face, but supposedly the very structure of my national government, seeking to become President is probably the last thing I would think to do. Indeed, something about it feels of a piece with the media’s focus on personalities over issues, our fascination with celebrity, and the Internet’s peculiar way of centralizing our attention despite its decentralized architecture. I would like to return to a time when the Spearker of the House was a more central figure in public policy than the President, or perhaps reform our system in the direction of something more parlimentary. Eitherway, the fact that Republicans, a party of grass roots localism and states rights, small business lemonade stands and limited federal power, are as guilty as Big Government loving Democrats of putting so much faith in a single institution and person bewildering and dissappointing****.

Perhaps those better versed in the potential pay-offs of premier national politicking can explain the reasons behind such a move. Maybe running in the most important national election is actually the best way for Paul Ryan edge himself into the top tier of Congressional leadership. But even if that is the case, I still have my doubts. And the fact that Paul Ryan has chosen to run for Vice President, even if he and Romney win, has only, in my eyes, bolstered the case against him as a “serious” political thinker or doer.

***

*(I worry that the word “breakfast” by itself doesn’t do this weekly ritual justice. There is nothing I look forward to more than waking up early on Sunday morning and listening to Chris Hayes while preparing a spread of hashbrowns, eggs, and bacon, complimented with 2-3 different hot sauces, and complete with a toasted bagel as well as a large cup of French pressed premium coffee, before moving onto Fox News Sunday, This Week, and Meet The Press. I have been known to find even a slight deviation in this ceremony emotionally devastating).

**(I want to stress my use of “already” here, since supply side arguments are often couched in the morality of equal access to opportunity, but in practice often appear to protect and reinforce existing privilege rather than support those whose disciplined work ethic, virtuous character, and acquired abilities would enable them to acquire said privilege).

***(I wonder if some self-described libertarians could point to those people who they think are most authentically libertarian. That is, not those who you necessarily agree with, or even admire, but rather those people who seem to genuinely subscribe to their brand of libertarianism, and who came to it on their own. Ron Paul was a good example, but now it appears we must look elsewhere. With no irony intended, I would nominate Pen Jillette, but if it wasn’t already apparent, this is probably due in part to how few libertarians I know or am aware of.)

****(I updated this part after posting, and when, upon reading Tod’s comment, started to wonder if the post was actually any good, before than realizing that I hadn’t made the point with this section that I’d actually wanted to make, which was something along the lines of riffing on the “Cult of the Presidency.”)

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164 thoughts on “Three Things About Paul Ryan as Romney’s VP Pick

  1. There are points here I disagree with, but since the whole thing is couched in a “as it shows up on my radar” I’m not going to quibble with any of them, and will instead just say this:

    Of all the Paul Ryan posts I have read on the intertubes thus far, this is absolutely, positively my favorite.

    This was fantastic.

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      • Well, I think the point you’re trying to make in point one is that Ryan shouldn’t be allowed to criticize public policy over private policy if he hasn’t spent time in in the private sector. I don’t agree.

        Also, I suspect that only way Ayn Rand is going to show up in this race is a back and forth of, “Hey, this guy likes Ayn Rand!” and “No he doesn’t, stop saying that!” that will be pretty useless and boring and will only show up on bloggers’ radar screens..

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        • Hmmm, on the first I agree, except that when it comes down to, “who do you trust to care about you,” I’m more likely, in general, to trust someone who understands my situation better. Of course, they can make a cogent critique whatever their circumstance, but given the uncertainty which surrounds all future Presidential (or Congressional) actions, I have no reason to “trust” Ryan will do right by people he has nothing in common with, socio-economically speaking.

          On the second, I agree that Ayn Rand won’t factor in politically, i.e. from a tactical or strategic point of view. But as to it’s relevancy in understanding the media phenomenon that is Paul Ryan, as well as the parts of his image he buys into, I do think its invaluable (whether or not it’s actually that important to him…if it’s not, then why did he want to make it out to be at some point? If it is, well then it is).

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      • Yeah, this is one of those areas we have always disagreed. I prefer blog posts where the writer doesn’t chest his cards, and says “this is the way i see the world and so this is what i think.” You, I think, have always thought that a sign of solipsism, but I like the human-ness and honesty of it.

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        • “And what I do find repulsive about Ryan is his cynical marketing upon which his entire political image seems to be based.”

          In an all-comers forum, half will high-five, the other half will remain silent or leave. This is antithetical to principled and civil discussion, for it is neither.

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          • The best thing about restricting one’s comments to darkly alluding that the conversation is uncivil or unprincipled and leaving it at that is that one then has the satisfaction of having not stayed silent without any of the risk of making any actual assertion or arguement.

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                    • Seriously, can someone explain what he means when he says that? I’ve asked him and got bubkis. I’ve looked up the term and it doesn’t seem to mean anything that makes sense in the way he uses it. But I’m far from an expert on these things and would appreciate a “For Dummies” lesson… if one exists.

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                    • But wouldn’t a simple exchange of knowledge clarify that? Would such “problems” really arise from people believing what they choose to believe, regardless of what other evidence is out there?

                      Imagine a wall, too tall to see over and impossible to see around. One side painted blue, the other side painted red. You are on the blue side and I on the red. You insist the wall is blue. I insist the wall is red. If both of us are unwilling to budge off those positions, then I see where a problem exists. But if I am willing to accept that there exists another side, which I cannot see but which you can, and I am willing to accept your reporting on that side as accurate, and vice versa, than we can arrive at not only agreement and the cessation of our problem, but at a more complete understanding of the nature of the wall. Only if I refuse to accept your knowledge does our problem persist.

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                    • Our fundamental problem is that we know different things about the same thing.

                      Yes, there’s that. If that’s all there was to it, saying OPRE would be fine. Interesting even. The funny part, tho – the endlessly amusing part – is that TVD criticizes people for holding incorrect beliefs and then presents question begging, circular, often demonstrably false “evidence” in support of his preferred conclusion. All the while claiming, of course, that it’s other people who are deep in the throes of an epistemic crisis. That’s what elevates it to something magical.

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            • “And what I do find repulsive about Ryan is his cynical marketing upon which his entire political image seems to be based.”

              I object to this as suitable for an all-comers forum. Clearly some people think this is OK; I think it sinks to the level of Michael Savage. Further, I think if both sides were so “honest,” this blog would be unreadable.

              Having made my objection, Mr. North, perhaps people will think about it, and reconsider high-fiving Michael Savage/Kos Dairy level stuff. Or they will ignore my objection.

              In either case I have been “honest.” Hurray.

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              • Were the statement free standing and unsupported then I might be sympathetic. But the statement is imbedded in five paragraphs of assertions and arguments all of which you have ignored.
                Ethan asserts that Ryan in particular and his party in general say one thing and then act directly contrary to what they say when their actions would have any weight or consequence.
                You’ve ignored the assertion while denouncing the tone. So Ryan (and the GOP) are not defended, the debate is not widened and no minds have any chance of being changed. I fail to see any benefit from it other than that I get to enjoy the sunglasses on your icon (which I have unparalleled fondness for; they may be one of my favorite in the commentariate*).

                *up there with the robot basketball player, Clan Mcsnarksnark’s pointed teeth and E.D.’s owl (if it ever got a top hat the owl could be a contender).

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    • I agree – this was a great post. Well-written, clearly expressing a nuanced yet strong and unambiguous position. I’m still absorbing it, so I’m not yet sure the extent to which I agree or disagree (probably more the former than the latter), but this was a beautifully thought-provoking piece of analysis.

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  2. Every politician arrives in Washington, thinking he’s going to reform that Babylon-upon-the-Potomac. Inevitably, Washington changes them. Herein lies the most delicious irony of Paul Ryan’s VP acceptance: here’s the rare politician who arrived in Washington and actually changed that town. He leaves the House, only to be warehoused in the Vice Presidency, a lump in a chair in the front of the Senate, with no vote except in the case of a tiebreaker.

    Some promotion, huh? The great reformer, reduced to a stationary orbit around Planet Romney. Paul Ryan, author of the Ryan Plan, has just sold out. Henceforth, he will be selling Romney’s plan and not his own.

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      • It’s a reference to something that Douglas Adams wrote:

        [An extraterrestrial robot and spaceship has just landed on earth. The robot steps out of the spaceship…]

        “I come in peace,” it said, adding after a long moment of further grinding, “take me to your Lizard.”

        Ford Prefect, of course, had an explanation for this, as he sat with Arthur and watched the nonstop frenetic news reports on television, none of which had anything to say other than to record that the thing had done this amount of damage which was valued at that amount of billions of pounds and had killed this totally other number of people, and then say it again, because the robot was doing nothing more than standing there, swaying very slightly, and emitting short incomprehensible error messages.

        “It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”

        “You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”

        “No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like to straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”

        “Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”

        “I did,” said ford. “It is.”

        “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”

        “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”

        “You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”

        “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”

        “But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”

        “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”

        “What?”

        “I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”

        “I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”

        Ford shrugged again.

        “Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”

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          • That is what I meant. Seriously, what exactly is the smoking gun that is supposed to make us dislike this particular lizard?

            Section 1: he isn’t really bold, he is just doing his job. Huh?
            section 2: he reads Rand and argues in a way which is low key. And he has a consistent cultivated personality. Huh?
            Section 2b: He caters to his base which includes (gasp) religious people. Huh?
            Section 2c: Ethan disagrees with his policy priorities and questions his motives as well as his policies.
            Section 3: republicans are just as bad as democrats

            I repeat. The only thing I got from this is that Ethan thinks Ryan is a bad lizard and hopes you will agree and vote on a good lizard instead.

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            • You do realize this rhetorical tic works on every political argument everywhere, right?

              Person A: Woodrow Wilson is a horrible president who’s going to drag us into an unnecessary war and trample on civil liberties and civil rights!

              Progressive-era Roger analogue: All I got from that is that this lizard is bad and we should vote for the other lizard.

              You can say this no matter how good or bad either of the lizards in question are.

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              • Don,
                If you gave me a character piece that Wilson read the wrong books, acted like a politician and catered to his base I would indeed say the same thing. If you want someone that doesn’t already agree with you to agree someone is a bad choice, may I suggest starting with something substantive?

                What is it about Ryan’s record that you disagree with? How about his infamous budget? What is wrong with his ideas on safety nets? Will they really make them more sustainable, and thus help the elderly, or will it hurt the elderly? Why?

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            • Section 1: He is emblematic of, and complicit in, a lie that is the sum of his public media image—intellectual, serious, principled. He is a hawk, has a poor record on civil liberties, has voted in favor of several pieces of legislation that have been crucial in determining the last decade of deficits. The fact that he’s just doing his job/not bold, is as much a critique of the media, as it is of him, and the way it seeks to admire individuals for the pettiest things (note: at least he’s “serious” when he talks about destroying social welfare1)
              Section 2a: On Rand—he either read it and pretends not to, or didn’t and pretended to—either way points to someone with serious intellectual shortfalls. On how he argues—not engaging with your opponents or responding to direct questions, despite being the “bold,” “courageous,” and serious thinker behind budget reform is embarrassing on the part of those who write about and interview him, but also representative of someone who is disrespectfully “low key” i.e. they don’t actually engage you in discussion.
              Section 2b: This isn’t about him the Congressman, it’s about him the national political figure, who has become one in part because of the novelty generated in part by the confluence of Rand, unpopular budget proposals, and well spoken (i.e. stays on message and deflects/denies/ignores all else). If not for the tinge of exotic libertarian Rand-ism that surrounds him, he would not be the “character” the media wanted, and thus not such a prominent member of the “young guns,” the rest of which he is otherwise hardly distinguishable from.
              Section 2c: I think his policies are wrong, I think the way he goes about advocating his policies is wrong, and as a result his motives for doing both are strongly suspect. In other words, he is either mistaken, manipulative, or the worst combination of both.
              Section 3: Republicans are just as bad as Democrats, ergo issues with the size of government and the size of the budget are no reason to vote for one over the other (i.e. two party systems don’t work when the two parties are largely aligned in cause and effect, if not in intent or motivation).

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              • Section 1: The lie part just means he is a politician. Tell me more about his record on civil liberties, deficit spending and being a hawk… Now my ears are perked up!

                My understanding is that he wants to make social safety nets sustainable. It is fine if you disagree with him, but we need a plan to sustain SS and Medicare. What is right or wrong with his?

                Section 2a, b and c: Sounds like a politician to me. Do you recommend he read Bill Ayers instead? That might make him good lizard, no?

                If you want me to dislike him, please tell me what it is that you disagree with. I get that he is a conservative politician and you (and Elias) don’t like conservative politicians. I would like something substantive. Tell me more about what is wrong with his budget proposal compared to the alternatives that are put there.

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                • That is a post or ten in and of itself.

                  In short, he increases the deficit, cuts important parts of the fed (EPA et al), and, well, there’s those cuts to SS/Medicare that, god forbid, won’t affect old people, just all us young folk on whose paychecks the elderly already depend.

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            • Well it would have helped if you had put that in first off. Especially what strikes me as the mischaracterization of #1. I’d expect that for a libertarian like you Ryan’s active assistance in the historic Rupiblican spending binge that utterly discredited them as fiscal conservatives would be significant. I’m curious as to why it isn’t.

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              • I’m not arguing for or against him. I know very little about him other than that he put out some budget ideas that conservatives like, libertarians think is too timid and democrats think is going to shove grandma over a cliff. My guess is that means it probably would meet the three bears test for a conservative VP After reading this piece I know all that and that Ethan thinks he is a bad lizard.

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                • Did you read the links?
                  You aren’t aware that his “budgets” are very specific about the Dem priorities he would cut funding to, very specific about the GOP priorities he’d increase funding to, very specific about the taxes he’d cut and very very vague on how he’d somehow balance the budget and reduce the deficit? I mean the man is walking talking Bushonomics (the lesser Bush not his Father).

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                  • The links were three character hit pieces.

                    If I was a politician I would be vague on what benefits I cut during the election cycle too. Wouldn’t you?

                    In ya’lls defense, I see the same bad lizard argumentation on conservative sites. They just aim it at different lizards.

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                    • Ah I see, so it’s okay when Conservative pols behave like that because they’ll at least lie about libertarian ideals but nation threatening when Liberal pols do it because they don’t pretend to care about what Libertarians do. Gotcha.

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                    • And I should believe Ethan based upon this substanceless hatchet job? If I told you I didn’t like the cut of obamas jib would you agree to swear off democrats?

                      Read the OP and the comments and tell me where it’s not just an echo chamber of WE DON’T LIKE HIM!

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                    • I’m puzzled by your asserted ignorance of Ryan who is a pretty commonly known pol. Ethans’ point is common knowledge: Ryan voted for every Bush era war (funded entirely by deficit spending); he voted for every Bush era tax cut (and voted to remove the Paygo rules that would have required that the tax cuts be matched by spending cuts); he voted for the Bush expansion of Medicare Part D (funded entirely by deficit spending); he even voted for every single one of the Bush era civil liberty constricting piece of legislation that libertarians loathe. Again this is common knowledge, Democrats, liberals and even your occasional libertarian have brought this up routinely ever since the man gained prominence in Congress.

                      So, Ethan’s final paragraph in section I is not a “substance less hatchet job” but rather a reiteration of commonly known facts that have been brought up endlessly. Paul Ryan never worked in the private sector (sentences 1 & 2), the work Paul Ryan has done in the public sector are exactly what he claims to oppose (along with a reiteration that these things are commonly known and a brief indication that he wasn’t going to go over them again), finally a strictly factually accurate statement that Ryan has been part of the institutions that in the last decade have done exactly what Ryan claims he abhors.

                      But it seems, and I apologize if I’m reading you uncharitably, that since Ryan is especially adept at talking and voting like a Libertarian (though ~only~ when he can rely on a Democratic President and Democratic Senate to keep his votes from having any actual effect) you are content to defend him. Heck, you even assert that the criticisms of him are baseless side choosing even though you, by your own admission, don’t know anything about him, can’t be bothered to find out and don’t want to because, hey, he’s hissing the tune your preferred group of lizards hiss.

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                    • North,
                      “Ryan voted for every Bush era war (funded entirely by deficit spending); he voted for every Bush era tax cut (and voted to remove the Paygo rules that would have required that the tax cuts be matched by spending cuts); he voted for the Bush expansion of Medicare Part D (funded entirely by deficit spending); he even voted for every single one of the Bush era civil liberty constricting piece of legislation that libertarians loathe.”

                      No, I was not aware of these facts, and learning them does not endear me to Ryan. This is the type of discussion that would interest me, rather than talking about character.

                      Please do not get me wrong. I am not arguing anything for Ryan. I am arguing for more substantive discussions rather than character pieces that assume everyone already agrees.

                      So, thank you. I appreciate it.

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  3. It’s not quite fair to call Ryan a Hipstertarian. Politicians always have to compromise in order to achieve their preferred outcomes even if those outcomes are far from their ideal. Because no Objectivist program has a shot in hell of navigating through Congress, it makes sense that someone advocating that ideology would adulterate it when presenting it politically. After all, there’s a reason the VP nominee will be Paul Ryan and not Ron Paul.

    Besides, it’s very plausible that Ryan’s devotion to Rand is sincere. Ryan’s family is Catholic, yes, but it’s also been in the construction business for generations. If you were looking for a demographic likely to support Objectivism, you’d be hard-pressed to find one better than the scion of a Midwestern business magnate.

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  4. He has never worked outside of government.

    Heh, I didn’t know that. The irony is delicious. But can I say, you obviously spend waaaayyyy too much time focusing on politics. It’s not healthy.

    I would like to return to a time when the Spearker of the House was a more central figure in public policy than the President

    God bless you. I’m glad to know I have at least one ally in my hatred of the cult of the presidency.

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    • I’m with you on the presidency thing James. If Americans are keep larding up their executive with so much worship I suspect there’ll come a time when people are gonna look at the Commonwealths’ Monarchy ( old but *practically* powerless and safely sequestering away unused all manner of literal, legal and symbolic powers out of the reach of elected politicians) with envy.

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      • I will believe that when liberals/progressives admit that most of Reagan’s “evil” policies were enacted by a Democratic Party controlled Congress.
        Bush(1) policies too – tax increases GOOD, drug war BAD(Biden.)

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        • cfpete, Reagan was working with a conservative dominated Congress. The Democrats had the majority, but the southern conservative wing of the Democrats–who held most of the committee chairmanships through seniority–allied with the Republican minority to override the preferences of the northern liberal wing of the Democrats. All fair and legit, no dirty pool about it, but it was conservatives in Congress as a whole that supported Reagan, not the Democratic Party as a whole.

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        • For the record cfpete I believe pretty much economists and most centrist liberals look on the deal Bush (1) cut with congressional Dems as pretty much an unalloyed piece of good lawmaking*.

          *And personally I’d say as a partisan liberal that the Republican tantrum that then resulted was fun but as a patriot I’d say that it likely marked the begin of GOP’s descent into madness in earnest.

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    • That was, I’m pretty sure, one of the things that fascinated people about Newt back in ’94: he’d be the Speaker that made Congress important again. Nonsense, of course, since believing that requires confusing leadership with self-promotion.

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    • I want to join in with all those supporting the Speaker being more the central figure in public policy! Any ideas from those assembled on how to make a shift like that happen??? That’s a project I’d like to support somehow.

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        • It’s that “fear of elections” that makes having the Congress more central to policy making critical to begin with.

          You’re right on the backbone part, but Congresscritters won’t grow themselves one unless some pressure is applied. The public has a role in calling for it.

          The problem, to my mind, is that it works in the opposite way now. Think back to the timeline for healthcare reform. Obama tried like the dickens to have the legislative process driven out of the Congress (I’ll dig up some links if need be), but the press and the polls excoriated him for not “leading”.

          I’m asking if there is anything we, as citizens, can do to get members of Congress to step up to what is clearly their responsibility per the Constitution.

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          • To be fair it’s important to keep in mind Scott that the rather warty unpopular beast that we got in the form of PPACA was very much a creature of Congress (and the Senate). Obama went the opposite rout than Hillarycare which sortof tried to have the President write the whole thing up then pass to Congress to tweak and approve.

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          • Obama tried like the dickens to have the legislative process driven out of the Congress (I’ll dig up some links if need be), but the press and the polls excoriated him for not “leading”.

            I don’t follow you here, Scott. It seems to me that the criticism of Obama not leading occurred precisely because he was letting Congress drive the process, while he sort of stood in the background (or, probably more accurately, worked behind the scenes rather than out in public). In what way did he try to drive it out of Congress?

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            • Thanks for the life preserver, Jesse. It would read clearer as “driven by Congress” rather than “driven out of Congress”.

              And the responses here are why I brought up ACA as an example.

              If we, the people, want to get to a place that ends the cult of the Presidency in favor of establishing the leaders of the House and Senate as the driving forces for creating public policy, then we, the people, have to stand up for that. So the next time, when the President deliberately decides to give the lead role to Congress and said President is then criticized for not leading, that criticism must be shouted down by all sides.

              We thrust the President into the lead role, because the opposition finds it is easier to demonize the titular head of the Executive branch than the lesser known power players in the Legislative. If the President is going to end up getting the blame anyway, we shouldn’t be surprised when POTUS takes control.

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  5. Here’s my issue with the first deluge of Ryan criticism that I’ve read in the past few days.

    Imagine, if you will, an alternate universe in which Romney picked (not Paul Ryan). Rubio, maybe. T-Paw, maybe.

    There are essays written in this alternate universe complaining about Rubio or T-Paw and how he demonstrates this, or that, or the other on the part of the Republicans when it comes to their problems with race in America. How it demonstrates a capitulation to the culture warriors. How it demonstrates a fundamental unseriousness when it comes to the budget and spending.

    How, if Romney were serious, he would have picked someone like Paul Ryan instead of Rubio or T-Paw.

    Maybe I’ve been watching too much Fringe.

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      • Interesting thing about Paul Ryan, from my Liberal perspective, he was quite willing to get out there and put some numbers on the table. Lots of Democrats were looking forward to working with him.

        But noooo… the GOP leadership, specifically that obstreperous jackass John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, that vicious old snapping turtle, along with Eric Cantor (aka. DJ Young Fogey) wouldn’t allow Ryan to negotiate on anything. Instead of a meaningful proposal which might have led to genuine reforms, the Ryan Plan was reduced to a futile exercise in partisanship.

        I don’t agree with Paul Ryan but I respect him for having a pair of cojones big enough to put forward a plan, however insufficient or wrongheaded it might have been. It wasn’t clear on how we’d close tax loopholes but that could have been an excellent forum for negotiation. Such was not to be. It was more important to give Obama the ol’ stiff arm and let the country go to hell in a handbasket, lest Obama get so much as an iota of credit.

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        • I don’t think you’re apportioning blame correctly here with regard to the debt reduction negotiations, but whatever. The big thing with me is that Ryan didn’t even put numbers on the table! He was very forthright about how his plan would gut Medicaid, slash taxes for the rich, and voucherize Medicare, but then magic asterisk appeared. How is he going to reduce non-defense discretionary spending from 12.5% of GDP to 3%? Nobody knows! But because he hasn’t spelled out how these incredibly unrealistic unspecified cuts will fall, it’s now bad form to say that his plan requires us to cut programs x, y and z just because he has mathematically obligated us to do so. And of course when it comes to taxes, he does the same thing. Again, the guy released a plan that manages to both eviscerate the most costly programs the Feds provide, medicare and Medicaid, and yet still not cut the deficit. It’s just infuriating to me that the beltway media still haven’t stopped gazing into his baby blues long enough to read what he’s proposing.

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          • Well, yes, all this is true. Obama’s reducing expenses and nobody seems to notice. Had the GOP allowed him to wade into those negotiations, things would have been quite different, I’m sure of it. That didn’t happen.

            It didn’t happen because the Old Guard in the GOP wouldn’t tolerate it. I’m told Obama prefers Paul Ryan to Enc Cantor: at least Ryan stands for something. Cantor and Boehner and McConnell are obstructionists, with zero impetus to do the nation’s business.

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              • I think one lesson for future Presidents is that you cannot have your brand be “I will compromise and transcend politics” because then the opposition is incentivized to obstruct. I think Obama really did intend to compromise; as evidence look at his 2009 stimulus and how much of Republican thinking was incorporated despite no real negotiating. And he even crushed the corrupt Sallie Mae subsidy where there was socialized risk and privatized profit. He did some right things and was branded a socialist partisan leftist statist thug who was out to ruin America. I blame Obama for being so naive (as he has basically now admitted) and inviting his opponents to roll him. I guess you can blame them for being obstructionist douche bags as well.

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        • Some numbers, yes, but when it came time, he simply told CBO to assume federal revenues of 19% of GDP. And when people asked how that could happen, in light of his proposed tax cuts, he said (paraphrasing), “Not for me to say, that’s Ways and Means turf.” Well, you know, tax rates are also Ways and Means turf. As is Social Security and Medicare. I’d have been more inclined to go along with the “bold” assessment if he had simply said, “It looks like that mortgage interest deduction will have to go, and someone’s going to have to pay taxes on all that business spending for employee health insurance, because there’s no place else to get that much money.”

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          • I still think he gets marks as “bold” if we grade Washington on a curve. The Priebus on Meet the Press last wk defended the policy of turning Medicare into a voucher program by attacking Obama for legislating future cuts to Medicare spending (not benefits, oh that’s too hard, just spending in the abstract). My point is that Paul Ryan is actually pretty clear that he would cut about everything non-essential that the govt does and return the govt to a pre-New Deal size. That’s bold, even if you don’t go on TV and tell the nation, “look, we’re all going to die, so old people who don’t have the money are just going to have to die sooner and cheaply on their own like they used to do.” It is his policy view, and it’s sensible as it goes, but we cannot really expect him to say it like I would.

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    • On one hand I’d say you’re right that Romney’s political opponents would find something to criticize about anyone he picked as a running mate. But then that’s a game as old as politics. Has anyone ever picked a running mate that was met with universal acclaim?

      Also I’m struck here by how you’re scorning liberals here for reactions that technically have happened only as hypotheticals in your mind.

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    • So your issue is that Republican/Romney critics were going to criticize the pick no matter what?

      FWIW, back in ’08, a parent in my class worked intimately with the Obama campaign. I remember her remarking after the Palin pick about its brilliance. Why? Because no one knew who she was and they were completely unprepared to attack her. Thought you’d like that.

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      • So your issue is that Republican/Romney critics were going to criticize the pick no matter what?

        I think it’s that everyone is pretending that there is, theoretically, a guy who was sitting right next to Paul Ryan that would have made them say “Now, I am the most Liberal man in the room but when I think of (person) as Vice-President, I say that this is a fine country with fine leadership and I know that everything is going to be okay”.

        If they picked Christie, they’d complain about how yet another nihilist Christianist culture warrior is going to force the elderly to eat pet food and get us into a drone war with Libya.

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  6. I & II are solid, but for number 3, good gravy man, if there’s anyone who shortcutted his way to the Presidency more than anyone else in the last 100 years, it’s Barack Obama.

    (except for Kennedy, whose father provided the shortcuts, and Nixon, who failed at the quick path).

    (yeah yeah, tu quoque, blah blah blah).

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        • There was the whole lack of regulation thing he let go on that led to that silly Depression thing a few years later. I realize Coolidge is one of about three Republican President’s that conservatives can point to without any major anvils around his neck, but sometimes a lack of action is just as bad as acting in a bad way.

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        • The Boston Police Strike is an interesting situation. Basically, the police formed a union to address issues like the fact that in 1919 they were being paid more or less the same wages set in 1854. The Police Commissioner’s response was to suspend all the police involved in forming the union. (Oddly, the Commissioner reported to the governor, not to the Mayor.) The Mayor of Boston brokered a compromise that would allow the union, provided it remained unaffiliated with any larger organization (e.g. the AFL) and gave up the right to strike. The union was willing to accept this, but the Commissioner, backed by Coolidge, refused to recognize any form of union and held departmental trials for those accused of “union activity”. At this point, the police department voted almost unanimously to strike. Afterwards, the striking officers were fired and replaced by a new force, who were granted pretty much all of the wage and working condition improvements the union had been asking for.

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  7. I should probably note, on the general topic Re: Criticism of Paul Ryan, he very well might be a great individual to work with on the budget.

    BlaiseP brings up the Republican leaderships role in preventing negotiations from really taking place. If that’s more or less the case, I don’t think it’s contradictory to feel that:

    1. Paul Ryan is simply doing what Republicans should be doing (i.e. not bold, just doing his job).
    2. Though I disagree with much of everything PR believes, his proposals were an opening position with plenty of room for compromise necessarily built into it, rather than a all or nothing blueprint for the future
    3. That as a result of this he would be a better Congressman than most, relative to the present attitudes and behaviors of his peers.
    4. His entire public persona is calculated so as to give him maximum leverage at the negotiating table, the pro being that he isn’t actually that crazy, the con being that he’s still dishonest, the con con being that our political system incentivizes this kind of manipulative imaging.
    5. Ergo it really would be better if he stayed in Congress, where he could try to actually make deals, and push policy in the backroom, rather than engage in the politics of soundbites, posturing, and celebrity that Presidency largely consists of (though not largely enough, since it still has the power to spy on, indefinitely detain, and assinate anyone it chooses to).

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  8. I’ll also note, just for clarification, that I don’t think Paul Ryan is a *bad* VP pick. In fact, I think he is as good as any Romney could have conceivably got to partner with him.

    Indeed, from a liberal perspective, I am happy he chose him (thinking as I do that Romney is irredeemable at this point as a moderate candidate), because if they lose, it will have indicated that the majority of people have rejected such far right views on the economy, and, if they win, they will hopefully put some form of their preferred supply side policies into action, and we will at least be able to judge them on the actual outcomes of the policies, rather than what we are told they will accomplish (though what potential benefit is to be gained from further evidence at this point, given that the last 30-40 years of information have not helped to settle debate one way or another, at least among the majority of voters, remains debatable).

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    • It’s interesting that true believers on both sides like the Paul Ryan pick. I figure that Romney was going to lose either way, but by picking Paul Ryan the Romney-Ryan ticket will articulate a clear vision of conservative govt, primarily about fiscal policy, which should stick in the electorate’s mind for the inevitable day when the welfare state runs aground. This pick can only hasten the sobering up of American fiscal practice, either by winning the debate (unlikely) or by moving the debate (already happening, see Tea Party and the debt ceiling debacle).

      To say something novel, I find that pundits who decry how broken our politics have become, how unable we are to deal with the real problems, have got it backwards; it is only now that we are finally focused on the real problems. It’s commonplace now to hear every politician on Sunday talk shows decry that we aren’t talking about the real problems. That’s just how such a conversation begins. It’s a self-defeating notion in the context of being said every week on the most important outlets for political discourse in the nation. The fact that Romney would even vet a potential VP like Paul Ryan is definitive evidence of how our politics are NOT broken. He represents the very real preferences of a sizable part of the electorate, the Tea Party types, who have reacted to the 2008 TARP and the 2009 stimulus bill by petitioning govt to change. Within 2yrs they had remade Congress to a remarkable degree and moved to coopt the Republican party, causing great distress to that party’s leadership who views the Tea Party movement as political suicide for many Republicans (esp social conservatives who endorse the welfare state generally). When people say that our politics are broken in a unprecedented way, I think the reality is that our politics is working and our citizens are challenging a bipartisan consensus in favor of the welfare state.

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  9. Ethan – given the number of comments, i’m not sure if anyone has answered your question: I wonder if some self-described libertarians could point to those people who they think are most authentically libertarian.

    Using Hit & Run as my source, Penn J is mentioned a far amount as is Drew Carey – both quite positively. Others are of course Ron & Rand Paul. Their recent comments about Paul Ryan have not been particularly positive – the writer sort-of equated him to being the Barney Frank of the right (in the sense that Paul has 2 positives from a libertarian standpoint as does Barney.) Hopefully that somewhat answers your question.

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