Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin stubbornly persists in his crusade for free-market capitalism though criticism of his “Roadmap for America’s Future” is fierce.
In February, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag deconstructed Ryan’s plans, stating that although they address long-term fiscal problems, many lawmakers might find them “objectionable” because, as Politico put it, they “would shift risks and costs onto individuals and their families.” According to Orszag, Ryan’s is a “dramatically different approach in which much more risk is loaded onto individuals.”
That, apparently, is a bad thing.
“Democrats have followed up,” notes Time, “with a flurry of withering attacks, all of which signal a tactical shift: after months of painting their opponents as obstructionists willing to sacrifice critical legislation for electoral gain, Democrats are now tripping over themselves to juxtapose their ideas with a substantive Republican policy proposal.”
Ryan, unfortunately, is hardly typical of today’s GOP, no matter what his opponents may argue. He is typical of the GOP of thirty or even fifty years ago when Republican stalwarts as Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater brazenly defended individual responsibility and American capitalism. “I don’t see these things as third rails anymore,” Ryan told Time. “You literally crush our economy no matter if you try to tax or borrow your way out of [debt]. It’s just that unsustainable. The sooner we acknowledge that, the better off everybody’s going to be.”
Voters appear to agree. The British Telegraph ranked Ryan as the most influential Republican legislator, and the ninth most influential US conservative after Dick Cheney, Robert Gates and several prominent figures in media. The reason is hardly surprising. Where Democrats try to taint the GOP as the “party of no,” Ryan is one of the few Republicans with true vision.
The congressman spoke about his principles with John Stossel on the Fox Business Network last February 12. Americans, he said, are increasingly “more worried about their material support from goverment than they are about their own liberties.” Those in the federal goverment meanwhile, have apparently convinced themselves that their job is not merely to equalize opportunity, but to equalize the results of peoples’ lives. “The more we ask government to do for us,” warned Ryan, “the more government can take from us.”
Health care reform is a case in point. Ryan has repeatedly warned, even in conference with the president, that under the Democrats’ plans, costs will skyrocket and plunge the country further into debt. Obama announced on March 3 that his reform package will cost about $1 trillion over the next ten years; Ryan estimates that the real cost will be close to $2.3 trillion. The truth is, no one knows for sure.
Instead of treating Ryan’s alternative as a “serious proposal”, which is how both the president and Orszag described it, his objections were shuffled aside by Democrats who threaten that he, as Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California put it, would leave Americans exposed to the “whims of Wall Street.”
As health care reform reached the floor of the House of Representatives once again on March 21, Ryan made a passionate last stand for liberty, recognizing, unlike so many of his colleagues from both sides of the aisle, that the matter before the House that day was not merely a health care bill. “We are being asked,” he said, “to make a choice about the future path of this country.”
“This is really not a debate about prices, coverage or choosing doctors,” said Ryan. “This is ultimately about what kind of country we are going to be in the twenty-first century.”
He cited the Declaration of Independence which professes that man’s rights are derived, not from the state, but from nature and nature’s God. This guiding principle of American government has been violated repeatedly by massive entitlement programs and pervasive restrictions and controls on both businesses and individuals. Health care reform only accelerates a process that leaves “more Americans [dependent] on the federal government than on themselves for their livelihoods.”
Should we now subscribe to an ideology where government creates rights, is solely responsible for delivering these artificial rights, and then systematically rations these rights?
Do we believe that the goal of government is to promote equal opportunity for all Americans to make the most of their lives — or do we now believe that government’s role is to equalize the results of peoples’ lives?
The latter, evidently, is the philosophy of the Democratic Party today: a philosophy which Ryan described as “paternalistic” and “condescending” and one that “tramples upon the principles that have made America so exceptional.”
Health care reform, at least for now, has passed, yet its place in history, said the congressman, has not yet been decided. “The quest to reclaim the American idea is not over,” he promised. “The fight to reapply our founding principles is not finished, it’s just a steeper climb. And it is a climb that we will make.”