Congressman Paul Ryan is routinely described as a "wonk." And all of us policy enthusiasts have to like the new focus on substance--budgets and taxes and who gets how much--that's likely to occur with the naming of a fellow wonk as Mitt Romney's running mate.
Conservative and liberal commentators also agree that the choice of Ryan signals a harder turn by Romney toward a more specific anti-tax, anti-government policy agenda. It reflects an even more pronounced valuing of private interests over public interests on the GOP side, and perhaps the strongest attack since before the 1930s on our federal government's fundamental role in providing economic security for all Americans.
The best and most comprehensive critique of Ryanism, and the spectacular claim to be able to reduce the federal deficit by cutting taxes, can be found at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) blog post headlined "Everything You Need to Know About Chairman Ryan's Budget.''
Here's how CBPP President Robert Greenstein summarized the Ryan blueprint: "It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history)."
The ramifications for Minnesota of the Ryan budget were teased out of the CBPP studies late last week by the Minnesota Budget Project (MBP). The MBP reported that "Minnesota would lose an estimated $420 million in federal funding for education, law enforcement, clean water, and other state and local priorities in 2014 under the House-passed Ryan budget...The total impact from 2013 to 2021 would be a loss of $3.8 billion in federal funding to Minnesota and local communities."
Meanwhile, on the libertarian end of the spectrum, the Cato Institute is much more bullish on Ryan's budget, but Cato also faults him for inconsistency and for not taking a similar whack at the huge military-industrial complex that taxpayers support through military spending.
It's common knowledge that Ayn Rand, the novelist and amateur philosopher who worshipped capitalists as godlike Atlases to whom everything was owed, has had strong influence on Rep. Ryan. The New Yorker reminds us that her novel, Atlas Shrugged, once was required reading for his staff. But Ryan has since attempted to disavow Rand, in large part because of her militant atheism and utter contempt for religion and the altruistic values of Ryan's Catholic faith. The American Values Network offers an intriguing challenge to Christians to choose between Ayn Rand and Jesus Christ.