Talk about apocryphal. Here’s one of my better Kudlow forecasts regarding Paul Ryan as the conservative man of the year. This was originally printed in Human Events in December of 2011. – Larry Kudlow, August 11, 2012
When you think of Republican congressman Paul Ryan, terms like earnest, serious, and important come to mind. So does the term old-fashioned. Ryan comes from an old-fashioned place, the blue-collar town of Janesville, Wisconsin. He cherishes the old-fashioned values of a faithful family man. He even looks old-fashioned, with his white shirts and striped ties. And he uses old-fashioned argument skills, persuasively weaving big-picture themes with the numbers that back them up.
And Ryan has old-fashioned goals, too, like saving America from fiscal bankruptcy, economic stagnation, and a European-style entitlement state.
“Just look at what happened across the Atlantic,” Ryan told me in a year-end interview. “We have to avoid that. We must reclaim our founding principles of economic freedom and free markets. We must preserve the American Idea.”
With this vision, and with a pro-growth budget framework called “A Roadmap for America’s Future,” Ryan’s serious ideas have seriously gotten under President Obama’s skin.
In a White House meeting this year, Ryan’s superior knowledge of health care baffled Obama and left him speechless. And the serious Ryan budget, which lowers spending by $6.2 trillion and reduces deficits by $4.4 trillion over ten years, totally outflanked the White House. It embarrassingly exposed the Obama administration’s flimsy and inconsequential 2012 budget, which even rejected the findings of Obama’s own Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission. (Another Oval Office embarrassment.)
And when Ryan unveiled his first Medicare-reform package, which featured patient-centered consumer choice and market competition, the White House went nuts. Team Obama whipped up a Mediscare panic, resorting to a fictional caricature of Ryan forcing old ladies off a cliff. But the charge that the Ryan plan “ends Medicare” couldn’t be further from the truth. The website PolitiFact labeled this “the lie of the year.”
Ryan later amended his Medicare reform to keep the existing system as an option, and bolstered it with a menu of market-based private insurance plans to promote cost-cutting choice and competition. But he did so with the bipartisan support of Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon. How did the White House react? It went rhetorically ballistic, although it couldn’t put together a serious response.
No, Ryan’s reforms didn’t quite resonate in the White House. But they did force a serious debate about domestic policy and the economy throughout the country. With his comprehensive budget of deep spending cuts, entitlement reform, and tax simplification — a plan that would strictly limit government and unleash growth at the same time — Ryan became the most influential Republican of his younger generation. Quite likely, he became the most influential thinker in today’s GOP. For these reasons, Paul Ryan has been chosen as the Human Events Man of the Year.
The Ryan “Path to Prosperity” budget passed the House this past spring. In effect, it became Republican policy. Unfortunately, things went downhill after that.
The summer debt-ceiling crisis produced a meager $1 trillion in spending restraint, way below the Ryan goals. Then the Supercommittee, which couldn’t even produce a policy, fell back on the trigger of another $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts. And now the year is ending in a chaotic and unserious gridlock over the temporary extension of a temporary payroll tax holiday that has no economic-growth content and ultimately would blow more holes in the Social Security trust fund and the overall budget. A disappointed Ryan told me, “Tea Party enthusiasm hasn’t yet translated into the kind of reforms we need. One-third of the government has only limited political power.” He added that the 2011 budget narrative shows “the total un-seriousness of the left in tackling problems.”