Bruce Murphy
Back In The News

Is Paul Ryan Becoming a Moderate?

Yet another “new” Ryan, this time ready to make bargains with Obama.

By - Feb 9th, 2015 10:57 am
Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan

Some Wisconsin Republicans will tell you that Paul Ryan is far more of a policy guy than Scott Walker, someone who loves to talk in depth about budget and programmatic minutia. And developments this year reinforce that view.

Ryan would have had difficulty getting appointed the head of the powerful House Way and Means committee if he was running for president, and he took care of that potential conflict by announcing he wouldn’t run in 2016.

Now he is generating news as the Republican who is so interested in policy that he is moving left and willing to seek compromises with President Barack Obama — this at a time when Obama is being pilloried by GOP leaders for promoting liberal ideas that have “no chance,” they say, of being passed by a Republican-controlled Congress.

A recent story in the New York Times portrays Ryan as the “gatekeeper of President Obama’s agenda” and quoted Ryan saying, “There are a lot of things we can do with this administration.”

“If Mr. Ryan can strike a deal with the administration and Democrats on ‘fast track’ trade authority, an agreement with a dozen economic partners along the Pacific Rim, an expansion of the earned-income tax credit and an overhaul of the tax code, he may be the only one on Capitol Hill who could sell it to his skeptical conservative colleagues,” the story notes.

But it will not be easy. “There is, of course, grave skepticism that Mr. Ryan will be able to deliver,” the story goes on. “Indeed, for all of Mr. Ryan’s policy prescriptions that so enrapture his House Republican colleagues, he has never really put together a major piece of bipartisan legislation, has rarely bucked a party-line vote and remains one of the more polarizing figures on Capitol Hill.”

But Ryan has indicated a willingness to work with Obama in areas where there is potential agreement. “Republicans believe the tax code for corporations and individuals needs a thorough overhaul. But, Mr. Ryan conceded, if the administration wants only to focus on business taxes, Congress must adjust.”

‘If we can get tax reform done in phases, phase one is businesses, and whatever we can get for families, and phase two is to finish the job, then fine,’ Mr. Ryan said. “As long as phase one doesn’t take away from phase two.’”

And though many Republicans believe the earned income tax – a wage subsidy for low-income workers invented by conservatives — is is now riddled with fraud and waste, and though Walker and Republicans reduced the state earned income tax in Wisconsin, Ryan has embraced Obama’s call to expand the credit to workers without children. “I want to focus on steps that are achievable,” he told the Times.

Meanwhile, Democrats say Ryan is running the Ways and Means Committee “more charitably toward outnumbered Democrats” than his Republican predecessor Dave Camp.

Elsewhere, Washington Post writer Chris Cillizza has suggested Ryan’s decision not to run for president in 2016 was a more strategic decision because he really had no chance to win and is young enough to wait eight years and run at age 52. He might also have a better chance with a real record of accomplishment in Congress.

27 thoughts on “Back In The News: Is Paul Ryan Becoming a Moderate?”

  1. tom Bamberger says:

    What else is Ryan going to say under the circumstances?

    You say one thing and do another.

  2. PMD says:

    Right Tom. I feel like there’s a cycle here, and he is such a media darling. He says all the right things to the media, and they call him a serious policy guy and claim he’s a moderate or whatever, but the actions often don’t match the words. He sure is media savvy though.

  3. AG says:

    What are politicians to do these days? They pretty much have to vote the party line (and do). That being said, if you really look at a lot of his past proposals they’ve generally been quite moderate, especially when compared to the tough talk from the rest of the GOP.

  4. PMD says:

    I think Ryan has said some pretty stupid and obtuse things about the poor, and some of his past proposals have paid for tax cuts for the wealthy by cutting services for the poor.

  5. Tim says:

    Paul Ryan… Moderate? He’s one of the most extreme members of his party. He talks slow & looks pretty, the shallow mainstream media will say anything to sell clicks.

  6. AG says:

    PMD, are you referring to such comments as the “tailspin culture” in inner cities? Because a lot of his comments have been completely misrepresented. No one can argue that a lack of male role models affects young inner city boys and their expectations on the future. That’s the principle for which big brothers big sisters is founded upon and THAT is what his message was all about. I have seen a lot of his ideas twisted beyond their true meaning.

  7. tim haering says:

    Ryan can afford to posture moderate because he knows rank and file will reject anything Dems agree to. Almost nothing will get done, it will be all talk. .

  8. PMD says:

    Ryan is a media darling. I don’t think his words or their meaning have been twisted. There’s some truth in some of his statements, no doubt, but I think he has also crossed the line many times and said things that are mean-spirited and callous. He just gives me a serious frat boy vibe, arrogant and slick and smarmy, and I really detest him.

  9. Marc MckkSweeney says:

    As a life-long liberal, but one who abhors the vilification of those with whom I disagree, statements like “I detest him” are a good example of the current lack of civility and respect that are rampant on both sides of the aisle. Let’s vigorously debate and challenge the merits of what he says and what he does but show some civility to him as a person, and some respect for the viewpoints of others.

  10. PMD says:

    Oh please Marc. I didn’t say I wish him harm or something like that. I just don’t like him as a politician. Maybe he’s a really nice guy and we’d have a great time watching a Packer game. But as a politician, I don’t like him. Is there really something wrong with believing that an individual is a bad politician? We can’t have opinions about that?

  11. David Ciepluch says:

    Ryan is a proven liar. He is a gifted speaker and has charisma in public that adds to his charm. He is pure snake-oil salesman with no real substance. What has he really done for Wisconsin and his represented district in 20 years of service? Nothing that I can think of at this time. He has zero credibility with me.

    I have heard his talks on deficit spending for a number of years, but he offers no real solutions. I agree that the deficit is a problem, but his solution is attack social security and medicare.

  12. PMD says:

    I detest Ryan’s politics. OK all better? Carry on.

  13. AG says:

    The problem with Ryan is that he doesn’t talk as most politicians do… he seems less concerned with one liners and instead speaks in a deeper manner that requires a bit more in depth knowledge and/or someone to read beyond the snippet quoted by the media.

    For example, his stance on social security. He said the current set up is more socialist and merely transfers wealth. People pay in, the money fairly quickly goes out to those taking the payments. He wasn’t saying social security is a bad thing. He went on to say that a better system is one where people have control of their own social security program, to be able to control (somewhat) their investment and the money they put in will eventually come back to them. This control and the fact that their social security is tied to the larger market would “make everyone capitalists” who now have a vested interest in a strong economy instead of only an interest in their personal gain.

    However, the only thing you usually pick up from that entire example would be that “Paul Ryan says social security is a socialist program” and then insinuate that he wants to end it. The actual proposals he put forth regarding this idea went so far as to make it completely optional so that anyone who wants to stay in the current system could very well do so.

    And frankly, if you’re not aware of his accomplishments in congress, you must not be looking very hard. He’s an extremely accomplished congressman, especially for his age.

  14. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Paul is a conservative like Tommy. He looks at problems and then finds answers outside of any particular set of ideology.

  15. PMD says:

    AG I for one don’t think he has done nothing for 20 years. I also think he’s sincere about social security reform. But the guy gets tons of adoring media coverage, and ample opportunities to share his beliefs and policy proposals. I really don’t think his ideas or statements get misinterpreted or misrepresented by the media. Maybe Media Matters or similar outlets, but not the mainstream media.

  16. Jeff Jordan says:

    As long as Republicans, and quite frankly some Democrats, continue to work economic policy within the confines of so called “free-market capitalism” or trickle down theory, we are going nowhere in an effort to improve the quality of life and hope of opportunity for all Americans. Forty years of this misguided concept has brought us a declining middle-class, an eroding infrastructure and a polarized country.
    I don’t know when the American voters are going to wise up to this game that is fixed so only one side can win, but until we do this idea that getting along is going to solve our problems is just a myth that gets ingrained in our culture to the point that no one can refute it.

  17. AG says:

    Sorry PMD, to clarify… When saying “media” it’s usually the left leaning publications or blogs that do the misleading and out of context snippets. So people like David Ciepluch can hear those and use them to demonize him.

    That being said, it’s also to David Ciepluch to which I directed my last comment about his accomplishments.

  18. Labitokov says:

    Chait nailed it:

    Paul Ryan recently attacked the Obama administration’s economic policies for, supposedly, exacerbating income inequality. I deemed this the most shameless thing Ryan has ever said, given that (1) Obama has actually enacted a wide range of inequality-reducing policies; (2) Ryan has opposed every one of them; and (3) Ryan has proposed a set of alternative policies that would have enacted the greatest upward transfer of income in American history.

    The idea that Paul “I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it” Ryan is some kind of moderate even though he has spent every one of his pampered days trying to cut taxes to the rich and slash social security and medicare to the needy, is beyond laughable.

    It goes to the brain dead nature of the pundit class and I guess us for continuing to watch and read them.

    BTW, I do think Obama has exacerbated inequality because of his cozy relationship with the owners and Wall St.

  19. David Ciepluch says:

    Ryan’s plan to privatize Social Security similar to an investment plan is a boon for Wall Street. They have many hidden imbedded fees and really do nothing for the investor in the process. A managed portfolio would cost another 1% annually – another rip off. Wall Street uses this to skim off thousands a year for not doing a thing. If you have a 401K plan, you will understand what I am talking about including various expense ratios. These plans usually offer no voting rights on the use of your money in a particular fund.

    I would rather see all Social Security Trust Funds used for home loans, municipal bonds, education, and similar things that benefit society directly and could be managed by a trust board. Currently the Fed uses the funds as a piggybank to fund wars without an rate of return. I have no problem with privatization of this Trust Fund but keep Wall Street criminals out of it. They crashed the economy and continue to be rewarded for it.

    I have heard Ryan’s presentations and they are very deceitful. He will show one side of the facts, to persuade an audience. He refrains from bringing in all the information and pros and cons of a solution. His mind is made up and he uses information to suit whatever he wants to do regardless of all the supporting facts. This is called cherry picking.

  20. AG says:

    Wait… fund managers make money off managing my mutual funds?!?! What?!!?! Excuse me, I need to pull my money NOW!

    As if SS plans would be high expense-high risk plans… I’m pretty sure his proposal specifically addressed your concerns.

    I’d love to see some examples of these deceitful presentations. I’ve given several examples of how he’s been misrepresented… please do the same for your point of view.

  21. Paul Apicella says:

    Paul Ryan interned for John Boehner and is a Republican In Name Only.

    I didn’t vote for him and never will. I voted for the Communist instead.

    I am a Conservative.

  22. Labitokov says:

    I really don’t think AG is as naive as he portrays but let’s do a “advanced” google search and see what we can come up with without say, looking at the fiasco that was the Chilean privatization of their social insurance system.

    “What most of these workers don’t know is that fees, rebates and revenue-sharing agreements among employers, 401(k) administrators and mutual funds–many of them buried in the fine print or not disclosed at all–are slowing the growth of their nest eggs. The U.S. Department of Labor lists 17 distinct 401(k) fees, including ones for record keeping, legal services and toll-free telephone numbers.”


    “Shareholder servicing fee. Under current regulatory rules, a mutual fund can pay a broker up to 0.25 percent of your assets for “servicing” your account. If you have a $30,000 account balance, that’s $75 a year.
    Account maintenance fee. A broker charges an average of $20 to “maintain” each mutual fund in your account. This fee is paid annually by a mutual fund to your broker. If you hold four mutual funds, your broker is being paid $80 a year.
    Revenue-sharing fee. This is a fee the management company of each mutual fund pays the broker for “marketing.” It can range between 0.10 percent and 0.40 percent of your assets, so a 0.20 percent fee is generating $60 a year from a $30,000 account. This is a hidden cost, but you can be sure you’re paying it.
    If you add up all the fees in my example, your broker is receiving as much as $215 a year to oversee four mutual fund investments. ”


    Just take a look at the offerings at your work and ask what the different fees are for the different companies that offer the service. I know that mine vary wildly.

  23. David Ciepluch says:

    Some typical expense ration fees are 1% annually or greater. You can have a managed account with so-called expert advice and add on another 1%. That would be 2% annually every year for the life of the account. Every year, $2000 for 30 years on $100,000 would add up to $60,000 in fees whether deserved or not.

    Many people are not that deft in avoiding certain fees and fund selections. This is the boon and gift that Wall Street would enjoy just by turning over the Trust Fund to them. Some fees can of course be lowered with Index and some of the other fund accounts.

    As I stated I would be for funding municipal bonds, home and education loans, that benefit society and provide a decent rate of return to the Trust Fund. Right now it is an IOU that people like Ryan are trying to back out of paying after they ran up the deficit on war costs in trillions of dollars that provided no rate of return and no real benefit to the USA.

    Ryan and his partners want to use the deficit they created to steal from well run programs like Social Security that did not have anything to do with the deficit. This is deceitful.

    I do agree with Ryan that their is a deficit problem. I have known this since I tracked it as a teen in the 60s. No politician and administration has done much to deal with it in an honest fashion by closed all loopholes and a fair tax system.

    Defense spending should not be given a blank check every year in my lifetime.

  24. Tom says:

    Working out deals and compromising with the other side to get things done used to be everyday politics. These days it makes headline news. Imagine if the private sector worked like that. Buildings would never get built, products would never ship, nothing would ever have been invented and we’d all still be living in caves.

    Imagine you hire a group of people to design and build a building, and they divide themselves into two groups, each in favor of a different design, and they spent 99.5% of their time and energy fighting with one another, mostly over obscure details that only builders care about. You’d fire the lot of them! You’d find a team that knows how to make a diversity of ideas a strength instead of a weakness.

    Once upon a time we had our differences, but service to the country was at least as important as service to your party. These days its seems most members of Congress say “to hell with the country, my party isn’t the most important thing, it’s the only thing.”

    There used to be this thing called the “broad bipartisan consensus.” Well, guess what. It’s still out there. It’s just that the politicians and the media keep telling us that the differences are all that matter.

    I say enough is enough. Sure, fight the good fight and all, and stand up for what you believe in. But at the end of the day, this country is facing serious problems. If we do A, B, and C my way, I’ll concede X, Y, and Z to go your way. We can both bring home some victories, but most importantly the country will move a bit forward today. Or we can argue and bitch and moan and blame the other side and go home empty handed and everyone loses.

  25. AG says:

    Labitokov, that is a ridiculous argument! Even if we ignore the fact that any government regulated privatization would likely consist of extremely risk averse programs, the fact that a person pays a couple hundred dollars at most (and really, we can easily see what the expense ratio is) to get a 5 fold greater return on investment vs social security would be well worth it! I’d much rather pay a few hundred dollars to get a much greater return… wouldn’t you?

    If you don’t want the risk, then with Ryan’s plan you could have stuck to the old fashioned social security program… especially for certain population subsets that get the greatest return on their social security; low income, couples with single income, etc.

    All those benefits and it still would have saved our country enough money to permanently stabilize the program. Amazing.

  26. Observer says:

    So if the stock market crashed, what would I do? Burn my paperwork of fee notices to keep warm? The last crash destroyed my savings and you want me to trust them with my retirement? No way.

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