Paul Ryan: New Yorker Profile
his punishing early-morning workouts ... his mastery of the federal budget ...... as a fiscal conservative, he was “miserable during the last majority” .... his real fight was for the ideological identity of the Republican Party .... “If you’re going to criticize, then you should propose” ..... the leader of the attack-and-propose faction .... Ryan’s long-range plan was straightforward: to create a detailed alternative to Obama’s budget and persuade his party to embrace it...... Nearly every important conservative opinion-maker and think tank has rallied around his policies. Nearly every Republican in the House and the Senate has voted in favor of some version of his budget plan. Earlier this year, the G.O.P. Presidential candidates lavished praise on Ryan and his ideas....... Janesville, Wisconsin, where Ryan was born and still lives, is a riverfront city of sixty-four thousand people in the southeast corner of the state, between Madison and Chicago. Three families, the Ryans, the Fitzgeralds, and the Cullens, sometimes called the Irish Mafia, helped develop the town, especially in the postwar era. The Ryans were major road builders, and today Ryan, Inc., started in 1884 by Paul’s great-grandfather, is a national construction firm. The historic Courthouse section of Janesville is still thick with members of the Ryan clan. At last count, there were eight other Ryan households within a six-block radius of his house, a large Georgian Revival with six bedrooms and eight bathrooms that is on the National Register of Historic Places ........ Unlike most members of Congress these days, Ryan is relatively accessible to reporters. “The key to understanding me is really simple,” he said. “I am not trying to be anybody other than who I actually am.” Even his ideological foes comment on his friendliness and good nature. After his sophomore year in high school, back in 1986, he worked the grill at McDonald’s. “The manager didn’t think I had the social skills to work the counter,” he said. “And now I’m in Congress!” ....... Like many conservatives, he claims to have been profoundly affected by Ayn Rand. After reading “Atlas Shrugged,” he told me, “I said, ‘Wow, I’ve got to check out this economics thing.’ What I liked about her novels was their devastating indictment of the fatal conceit of socialism, of too much government.” He dived into Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Milton Friedman...... “The fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.” To me he was careful to point out that he rejects Rand’s atheism. ..... One ad showed him walking through a Janesville cemetery among the gravestones of his ancestors. He won the election, becoming the second-youngest member of the House, and he has been reëlected easily ever since ..... As a thirty-four-year-old representative, he set out to privatize Social Security...... Two weeks after Bush’s Inauguration, Ryan gave a speech at Cato asserting that Social Security was no longer the third rail of American politics. He toured his district with a PowerPoint presentation and invited news crews to document how Republicans could challenge Democrats on a sacrosanct policy issue and live to tell about it....... For the first time, Ryan enjoyed a round of worshipful media coverage. “THAT HAIR, THOSE EYES, THAT PLAN,” proclaimed the headline of a long home-state magazine profile in 2005...... Bush’s poll numbers sank, and the plan was effectively dead by the fall. The following year, the Republicans lost thirty House seats and the Democrats took over Congress. Other factors contributed to Bush’s failures in 2005 and 2006—Hurricane Katrina, escalating violence in Iraq—but his push for a version of the Ryan Social Security plan marked the start of the decline. Bush, in his memoir, writes that he regretted pursuing the issue when he did...... “Don’t let the engineers run the marketing department.” ...... he set about testing the bounds of conservative ideology within the Party ..... Rather than just build support inside Congress, he promoted the Roadmap through the rich network of conservative media and think tanks that helped influence Republican members...... Ryan had witnessed three periods when conservatism was ascendant: during the Reagan revolution of the nineteen-eighties; after the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress; and after Bush’s election in 2000. Notably, the federal government’s size and responsibilities grew through all three political epochs....... Conservative intellectuals at National Review and the Heritage Foundation loved the Roadmap, and Ryan became an icon within the insular world of right-wing pundits. In Congress, things were different..... someone who could attack the President’s policies with facts and figures..... there were eighty-seven Republican freshmen who wanted to starve the government but had no clear idea how to do so.... In April, after months of this education campaign, Ryan formally unveiled a third version of the Roadmap, renamed the Path to Prosperity...... “House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has just released a recklessly bold, 73-page, 10-year budget plan,” he wrote. “At 37 footnotes, it might be the most annotated suicide note in history.” ..... “He’s a cerebral guy who likes policy, and he’s from my part of the country,” Ryan said. “At the beginning, I did have some hope..... Obama said. “There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don’t think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill.” ..... Ryan helped scuttle three deals on the budget. ...... “That’s what Cantor and Ryan want,” Jackson told a group of Republican congressmen, according to Robert Draper’s recent book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do.” “They see a world where it’s Mitch McConnell”—as Senate Majority Leader—“Speaker Cantor, a Republican President, and then Paul Ryan can do whatever he wants to do. It’s not about this year. It’s about getting us to 2012, defeating the President, and Boehner being disgraced.” ...... Through 2007, Ryan regularly requested government money for special projects back home .... Since the plant closed, Janesville, which sits almost at the center of a ring of major cities, including Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis, Des Moines, and Minneapolis, has partly reinvented itself as a distribution hub for major companies. “They don’t make anything here,” Beckord explained. “But they distribute their products from here.” ..... Next year, I-90 around Janesville will begin expansion from four lanes to eight. The project, the top issue for the local business community since the G.M. plant closed, will be financed as part of a billion-dollar federal and state highway project. “Paul has been as helpful as he can be to encourage that development,” Beckord said. “But, as you know, he also has a philosophical disconnect with the idea of earmarks.” ..... “When we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together..... When I pointed out to Ryan that government spending programs were at the heart of his home town’s recovery, he didn’t disagree...... what he’s been doing since 2008: remaking the Republican Party in his imageBarack Obama could not have wished for a better running mate for Romney. Mitt Romney just handed Barack Obama a gift.
It is not a fight between individualism and collectivism. It is about striking the right balance between the two to create maximum possible space for the individual without gutting all the good that only collective actions make possible.