Paul Ryan in Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper

On Budget & Economy: On current fiscal path, US cannot afford superpower role

Rep. McCarthy had seen enough of the hot-blooded class of 2010 to believe that they could be brought on board with Ryan's budget, so long as it wasn't rammed down their throats. If McCarthy could create a forum where his GOP colleagues could interact with Ryan, much as he had done with his America Speaks Out project, then they would support it. He suggested to Ryan that they host a series of small-scale "listening sessions" in the whip's office.

Upwards of 20 listening sessions took place. Ryan would lead off by producing his charts and graphs. "Our nation is $14 trillion in debt. Since Obama took office, nondefense discretionary spending has jumped 24%. The EPA's budget has gone up 36% in that time frame. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid consume over 40% of the budget and will soon crowd out everything else. If it stays on its current fiscal path, the US will be unable to afford its role as an economic and military superpower."

Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.139-140 Apr 24, 2012

On Budget & Economy: Mandatory spending cap as percentage of GDP

David Camp led off with a brief presentation on the 220-year history of the debt ceiling and the Treasury Secretary's statement that it must be raised to avoid federal default. Though he did not volunteer this, Camp himself had voted to raise the debt ceiling in the past, as had Ryan, the next speaker. Ryan then discussed some basic options for the members to consider demanding of the White House, including mandatory spending caps as a percentage of gross domestic product.
Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.226 Apr 24, 2012

On Budget & Economy: Reduce deficit by $6.2T over 10 years with no tax increase

Throughout the talks [on the debt ceiling], 4 documents sat alongside the 7 men: the Ryan budget proposal, Obama's budget framework, the report by the White House debt commission known as Bowles-Simpson, and the bipartisan task force plan steered by former Republican Senator Pete Domenici and former Clinton White House budget director Alan Rivlin. Obama's framework proposed to reduce the deficit by $2.5 trillion over the next decade; Bowles-Simpson by $3.8 trillion; Rivlin-Domenici by $6 trillion; and Ryan's plan by $6.2 trillion. 3 of the 4 proposals included revenue increases as part of the package. Only the Republican plan authored by Paul Ryan did not.

During the very first meeting, Biden made clear that Obama would only sign on to a deal that included revenue increases. Biden repeated publicly the stipulation that "revenues are gonna have to be in the deal."

Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.230-232 Apr 24, 2012

On Civil Rights: Ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation

The author of the House Republican budget was Paul Ryan. Until very recently, Ryan had been an energetic advocate for fiscal reform but hardly a partisan warrior. His congressional district in southern Wisconsin was strongly pro-union. Though an avowed social conservative, in 2007 Ryan parted company with most Republicans (including Boehner, Cantor, and McCarthy) by voting for a Democratic bill that banned employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.136 Apr 24, 2012

On Civil Rights: Annual pilgrimage to Selma AL for 1965 march anniversary

Ryan was a fiscal advocate but hardly a partisan warrior. He often spoke about the widening income gap between rich and poor. Having endured racist comments from friends while dating an African-American woman in college, Ryan was mindful of struggles within the black community and regularly accompanied Rep. John Lewis on the latter's annual pilgrimages to Selma Alabama, where in 1965 Lewis and other civil rights marchers had courageously endured beatings by state troopers on Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.136 Apr 24, 2012

On Gun Control: Avid bow hunter who skins his own prey

Ryan was an avid bow hunter who skinned his own prey and was a fan of the works of Ayn Rand -- even toying with her Objectivist embrace of man's "reason as his only absolute," before settling on Catholicism. Offsetting his straight-arrow retro handsomeness and perky informality were his dolorous eyes, seemingly still haunted by having discovered, at the age of 16, the body of his father, who had died of a heart attack. He frequently referenced his Tipperary, Ireland, roots and his 3 young children, who lived back in Janesville with his wife, Janna, a former tax attorney whom he first asked out shortly after seeing her wearing camouflage at a congressional Sportsmen's Caucus dinner.
Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.136 Apr 24, 2012

On Health Care: 2008 signature plank: reconfigure Medicare & Medicaid

As the new Budget Committee ranking member in 2007, Paul Ryan earned the right to produce the GOP's budgetary alternative to that of the Democratic majority. Strikingly, 40 Republicans -- 20% of the entire conference -- found his budget too austere and sided with the Democrats in defeating it. Undaunted, the Budget Committee ranking member went at it again in 2008 -- this time with a budget that featured what would become, for better or worse, Ryan's signature planks: reconfiguring Medicare and Medicaid. Again, 20% of the Republicans voted against their own budget. A month later, Ryan refined and repackaged his budget, dubbing it a "Road Map for America's Future." By the time it went to the House floor on April 2, 2009, Ryan was calling his budget "The Path to American Prosperity." Notwithstanding the new label, precisely the same number of Republicans voted against it as they had the previous year.
Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.137 Apr 24, 2012

On Health Care: ObamaCare is government takeover of healthcare

The only public official in Washington who seemed willing to publicly give Ryan his props was Barack Obama. While visiting a Republican conference in January 2010, the president waved a copy of the Road Map over his head and said, "I think Paul, for example, head of the Budget Committee, has looked at the budget and has made a serious proposal. I've read it. I can tell you what's in it. And there are some ideas in there that I would agree with, but there are some ideas that we should have a healthy debate about, because I don't agree with them."

A month later, shortly before passage of the Affordable Health Care Act, Ryan showed his gratitude toward Obama during a health care summit by assailing the bill to the president's face as "full of gimmicks and smoke and mirrors," ticking off its quantitative errors and then characterizing it with the Frank Luntz-tested phrase "government takeover health care." Obama stared icily at the Budgeteer throughout his harangue.

Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.138 Apr 24, 2012

On Health Care: Under age 54, provided with subsidy for private insurance

Ryan's Path to Prosperity would "save Medicare" by providing those under the age of 54 with a subsidy known as "premium support" -- he assiduously avoided the politically toxic term "voucher" -- to help purchase a coverage option from a private insurer. It would also "repair a broken Medicaid system" by shifting the federal burden over to the states and compensating them with block grants. The Cato Institute labeled the budget "a huge opportunity to improve health care."
Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.140 Apr 24, 2012

On Health Care: Obama: Ryan's budget plan ends Medicare as we know it

A senior White House official would later claim that the president and his speechwriters had been unaware that Ryan had been invited to the event. Obama's speech that afternoon amounted to a stern rebuke of the Path to Prosperity. "It's a vision that says America can't afford to keep the promise we've made to care for our seniors. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it. Many are someone's grandparents who wouldn't be able to afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down's syndrome.These are the Americans we'd be telling to fend for themselves."

Ryan sat and tried not to explode. The attack felt both gratuitous and personal to him. As he would later say, "'Autism,' 'kids with Down's syndrome,' 'maybe your grandparents' -- that's demagoguery. That's rank demagoguery, and it's beneath the office."

Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.142-143 Apr 24, 2012

On Principles & Values: Adhere to principles to avoid squabbles among conservatives

"Everyone's got to stick together," said Paul Ryan, a 38-year-old Wisconsin congressman and numbers fetishist whose shiny earnestness recalled an "Ozzie and Harriet" America. Ryan hated squabbling amongst conservatives -- the paleos versus the neos, the socials against the moderates, and on and on for as long as he'd been on the Hill, which was all of his adult life. Ryan had long sought to be on the GOP's glue, pleading for adherence to the principles and the data. At times he looked like the underfed, hollow-eyed child of alcoholic parents.

"The only way we'll succeed is if we're united," Ryan told the others. "If we tear ourselves apart, we're finished." But, he added. He liked what he was hearing now. Everyone at the table sounded like a genuine conservative. It was a place to start.

Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p. xvii-xviii Apr 24, 2012

On Principles & Values: Elected at age 28 & immediately focused on budget issues

Ryan was a numbers geek and a Washingtonian -- and only in the latter city could the former confer rock stardom. Straight out of college he became the economic advisor to Senator Bob Kasten. Elected to Congress in 1998 at the age of 28, Ryan wasted little time impressing fellow House Republicans as a serious, almost monastic young fellow who stayed up nights on a rollaway bed in his Longworth Building office leering at actuarial tables like soft porn. Following liberal Democrat Barney Frank's advice to him to "pick 2 or 3 issues and really focus on them," the freshman staked a claim as the Hill's most vigorous conservative "budgeteer."
Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.136-137 Apr 24, 2012

On Social Security: Enthusiastically promoted Bush's semi-privatization scheme

In 2000, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore pilfered Ryan's proposal to preserve Social Security trust funds in a "lock box." In 2006, Ryan turned down the offer to be Pres. Bush's new budget director. Later that year, when the Democrats retook th House, the disheartened new minority turned the page by allowing Ryan to leapfrog over a dozen more senior Republicans and become their Budget Committee ranking member.

Despite all the accolades, Paul Ryan had functioned as little more than policy arm candy for his party. His Social Security lock box proposal had gone nowhere in the Republican-controlled House. Instead of reducing the federal deficit, as Ryan had advocated, the Bush administration opted for sizable tax cuts. Ryan had been among the few GOP House members to enthusiastically promote Bush's Social Security semiprivatization scheme and was chagrined to see his colleagues "hit the brakes" on the president's proposal, while Ryan described himself as "obviously a gas=pedal guy."

Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.137 Apr 24, 2012

On Welfare & Poverty: End federal food stamps with block grant to the states

As the sole Democrat in the South Carolina delegation (albeit one in a district protected by Voting Rights Act provisions to guarantee minority representation), Clyburn had learned how to make himself relevant in s conservative state. He was pronuclear and along with Senator Lindsey Graham had been instrumental in acquiring funding to deepen the Charleston port. Eric Cantor proposed block-granting food stamps -- a popular conservative idea that Speaker Gingrich's House Republicans had pushed in 1995 and had also been included in the Ryan budget plan. Much as with what Ryan had in mind for Medicaid, the proposal would essentially do away with the food stamp program and instead send each state a lump sum of federal money to spend on feeding the poor however they saw fit.

"If you knew the history of my state," the South Carolina African-American told the Republicans, "you wouldn't be in favor of that." Cantor backed down immediately, and the subject did not come up again.

Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.230 Apr 24, 2012

On Welfare & Poverty: Direct federal grants to persistently impoverished districts

Cleaver, who grew up in the small Texas town of Waxahachie, had been conferring with his good friend and fellow Texan Jeb Hensarling, along with Paul Ryan and Appropriations subcommittee chairwoman Jo Ann Emerson, about a project that would redirect federal funds in grant-making agencies to the districts that had been the most persistently impoverished. Many of these were white districts, like Emerson's. The three Republicans were enthusiastic about working with Cleaver. Boehner seemed open to it as well. Cleaver dared to envision a historic press conference -- a Republican Speaker alongside the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, announcing a bipartisan initiative to attack persistent poverty in America.
Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.255-256 Apr 24, 2012

The above quotations are from Do Not Ask What Good We Do
Inside the U.S. House of Representatives,

Robert Draper
Click here for other excerpts from Do Not Ask What Good We Do
Inside the U.S. House of Representatives,

Robert Draper
Click here for other excerpts by Paul Ryan.
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Page last updated: Jan 06, 2013