The Corner

re: Paul Ryan’s Mentor

Bob: My first magazine article after Obama’s election in 2008 was called “Congressman Kemp’s Playbook,” and it was about how to revive supply-side economics following a bad election, much as Kemp gave them life following the Republican defeat in 1976. I interviewed a bunch of old Kemp hands, including Alan Reynolds, and finished the story this way:

Reynolds isn’t sure whether such a political entrepreneur inhabits the House today, but he does point to 38-year-old Republican congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as a possibility. Earlier this year, Ryan proposed comprehensive legislation that tackles entitlements and taxes. One of its big ideas is a two-rate modified flat tax. It didn’t catch fire in 2008, and chances are it won’t in 2009 either.

Still, Ryan seems determined. The more the economy stumbles, the more likely a political innovator will get a hearing. And it doesn’t hurt that he learned politics from a good teacher. His old boss? Jack Kemp.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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