Rep. Paul Ryan: In defense of liberty, prosperity and modern conservatism
By Jennifer Rubin
Rep. Paul Ryan’s speech to the Economic Club of Chicago this morning is an able defense of his own budget and his vision for reforming entitlements, but at bottom it is a defense of free-market economics and the intellectual underpinnings of modern conservatism.
The latter was not built on green-eye-shade OMB directors but on the belief that limited government and responsible public finances will unleash prosperity. He puts it this way (from prepared text):
In contrasting Obama’s “shared scarcity” and his own “path to prosperity,” he explains the difference in the approach to Medicare:
In contrast to Newt Gingrich’s swipe on Sunday, this is not a man looking to pull out welfare by the roots, but rather to prune and shape it for the long term. But he isn’t shy about pointing out that the president’s plan amounts to rationing:
Likewise on taxes, Ryan is clear that Obama is interested in hiking taxes by $1.5 trillion while he is looking for a “simpler, flatter, fairer, more globally competitive, and less burdensome” tax code. And he disabuses the audience of the notion that the problem is a failure to extract more from the rich: “Further, the math is clear – the government cannot close its enormous fiscal gap simply by taxing the rich. This gap grows by trillions of dollars each year, representing tens of trillions in unfunded promises to future generations that the government has no plan to keep.”
He gives a thumbs up to House Speaker John Boehner’s approach to the debt limit (“For every dollar the President wants to raise the debt ceiling, we can show him plenty of ways to cut far more than a dollar of spending. Given the magnitude of our debt burden, the size of the spending cuts should exceed the size of the President’s debt limit increase.”) And he is withering in his criticism of the class warfare rhetoric propagated by the president and fanned by eager liberal pundits:
The speech is remarkable in several respects. First, Ryan is exceptionally civil to the president, who had been remarkably uncivil to him in the George Washington University speech. He acknowledges that the president inherited a mess and that the budget failure was bipartisan. And then he largely ignores him. He is arguing for principles that conflict with the president’s, not against the president personally. Liberals want civil discourse? This is it.
Second, he is upbeat in a way most conservatives aren’t these days. He concludes:
And finally, Ryan brings with him his slides and a granular knowledge of the budget. He’s more fluent in the “math” and therefore more capable of rebutting the president’s budget than any other Republican on the scene.
In a sense, this is the model of modern conservatism first championed by William F. Buckley Jr. and transformed into a governing mandate by Ronald Reagan. It is optimistic, cheerful, gracious and reasoned. It is based on a belief in markets and individual liberty, not on the wisdom of government planners.
Ryan’s got the substance and the temperament. Why is it he’s not running for president? He thinks he’s not ready? Oh, puleez; he’s the most qualified Republican out there to confront the president and make the case for conservative principles.