I have exactly one bumper-sticker on the back of my car, and you’re looking at it. I’m talking about the photo to the side of this column – the one featuring an image of Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Most of my friends have absolutely no idea what point the sticker is making, which I suppose is understandable. Aside from the fact that we live in Colorado and not Wisconsin, a lot of them aren’t nearly as engaged in politics as I am. Thus, they don’t recognize his face. When one of them asks me the meaning of the sticker, I explain that it’s a parody of the iconic “Hope” image from Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. I tell them who Ryan is and what he’s about. I describe why the “Math” mantra stands for the solving of our country’s serious problems with logical, fact-based solutions, rather than with the empty, emotionally-driven slogans that our president has been relying on for four years now. Well, I try to sum all that up in layman’s terms anyway. My friends politely nod and grin, but I’m pretty well convinced that they don’t think the bumper-sticker is nearly as clever as I do. Oh well.
Needless to say, I’m a big fan of Paul Ryan and his leadership. I have been for some time. If he would have decided to run for the presidency as it was rumored last year, I would have been an enthusiastic volunteer for his campaign.
The reason why is simple: I believe he’s quite possibly the only leader in Washington who both understands the dire state of our country’s economic future AND has the guts, knowledge, and drive to actually fix it.
Ryan offered proof of this once again this week when he unveiled a GOP annual budget that dared to cut even more from our federal deficit than the one he proposed last year. Like last year, he put forth critical entitlement reform which has long been considered the third rail of our national politics. It’s also a must if we are to have any chance of avoiding economic armageddon in the foreseeable future. After all, the largest problem facing our economy today is our national debt, and our entitlement programs are indisputably the leading drivers of that debt. These programs are collapsing under their own weight. That’s a fact. They’re bringing in less money than they give out, and they’ll all become insolvent within a matter of years.
Anyone with half a brain in Washington already knows this, but it hasn’t stopped the Democrats from already decrying Ryan’s plan with the same tired song of blatant misrepresentations and shameless fear-mongering that they performed last year.
Sadly, most politicians view their job as a profession and not a public service. Their primary goal is not to deal with problems, but to stay in power. So, if it’s politically detrimental for them to deal with a problem, they’ll have no qualms in running away from it… even if that means passing the problem on to future generations that include their children and grandchildren. They won’t only hide from the problem but they’ll attack whoever steps forward to try and solve it. Demagoguery is their weapon of choice and they’ll use it relentlessly to scare enough votes out of the electorate to win more seats for their party.
Paul Ryan knows this all too well. He’s pointed out such slander across both sides of the aisle, and he’s been burned by it himself time after time.
Last year, President Obama challenged congress to come up with serious solutions for fixing our country’s entitlement programs. He even pledged a truce on partisan sniping over the issue, saying, “We’re not going to be able to do anything about any of these entitlements if what we do is characterize whatever proposals are put out there as, ‘Well, you know, that’s — the other party’s being irresponsible. The other party is trying to hurt our senior citizens. That the other party is doing X, Y, Z'”.
Paul Ryan, who has become the Republicans point man on economic issues over the past couple of years, answered the challenge with his presentation of the GOP budget that included substantive reform to Medicare and a reduction of $4 trillion from the deficit. Ryan was frank in his belief that critics would distort his proposal for their own political gain. He just didn’t realize how far up the defamation would go.
To address Ryan’s budget and the economy as a whole, President Obama invited the congressman to a speech he planned to deliver at George Washington University. He even reserved a seat for the Ryan directly in front of the podium. The congressman was reportedly hopeful that the president was going to take his budget seriously and perhaps offer additional ideas of his own. Instead, Obama proclaimed to the world that Ryan’s budget would essentially lead to the destruction of America, including letting bridges collapse and forcing autistic and disabled kids to fend for themselves. It was truly a double-cross and one of the more shameful examples of demagoguery ever put on display by a president. A complete failure of leadership on the most important issue of our time.
It didn’t end there. The Democratic party followed suit with a well-financed attack campaign on the GOP budget. The message coming out of the DNC was that the plan would end Medicare for the millions of senior citizens that depend on it – a completely false charge that the non-partisan, fact-checking organization, Politifact later labeled the “Biggest Lie of the Year.” Despite the lies, the campaign was effective. Though the bill passed the House, it died in the Senate and the Democratic party even won some special-election seats by running on the issue.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Ryan’s own party threw him under the bus. Recognizing the political conundrum, the Republicans in the U.S. Senate shied away from the budget and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich went as far as claiming that it was “right wing social engineering.”
One wouldn’t have blamed the House Republicans if they stayed silent on entitlement reform this year, in hopes of waiting until after the 2012 election before removing their tails from between their legs. I’m sure the temptation was there. Thankfully, the GOP has at least one persistent leader who recognizes the urgency of the problem and did not let that happen. I’m not talking about any of the presidential candidates. Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich are still speaking in broad terms when it comes to entitlement reform because they’re afraid of being put on the defensive the same way the Republicans in congress were last year. I’m talking about who I consider the de facto leader within the GOP, Paul Ryan.
With this year’s budget, it seems the Republican party is firmly behind him. I hope the support sticks. If it doesn’t, I’m convinced that the congressman won’t be detoured. He’ll continue to spit out as many bold bills as it takes to get this nation’s fiscal house in order, whether it be through their passage or through forcing media attention to the severity of the problems we face. I’m convinced that he’ll continue to reach across the aisle to people like Senator Ron Wyden and even former president Bill Clinton in hopes of building a consensus. I’m convinced that he’ll remain a strong, articulate defender of the types of policies that will save this country from falling off a cliff, without worrying about how it will hurt him politically.
By now, it probably sounds like I’ve got a man-crush on the guy, but I think it’s important to give credit where credit is due… especially when there’s very little done in Washington that deserves credit. Paul Ryan’s a genuine leader, and fiscal conservatives like myself couldn’t ask for a better advocate than him. Now… If we could somehow figure out a way of getting him on the presidential ballot.