Paul Ryan tackles one of GOP’s biggest post-election problems

For the second time in two elections, an older Republican presidential nominee selected a younger running mate with the intent of injecting some energy into his campaign. Then, shortly afterward, his campaign staff began working to muzzle that younger running mate.

That’s about as close as you’ll get to putting Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin in the same sentence — although, like Palin, Ryan seems intent on using his boost in national profile to grab a big role in the national debate moving forward, likely to position himself for a future run at the top of the ticket.

I give Ryan better odds at staying in that conversation all the way until the next election than Palin did after 2008 (although she certainly remained relevant through the 2010 midterms and was a central figure in the tea party’s rise to prominence). If he does, it will be because he seems to have a keen understanding of one of the GOP’s key problems moving forward from the election he helped fight. I’m talking about its reputation as a party that only cares about wealthy Americans.

Ryan reportedly wanted to broaden the GOP’s message during the presidential campaign but was shot down by Romney campaign advisers who said the party does not “test well on” issues like poverty. Well, of course: It’s hard to “test well on” an issue you spend zero time addressing. The only concession he got from the campaign was to give a single speech, about two weeks before Election Day in Cleveland, that was well-received but was too little, too late to move the needle for the campaign.

Now that those advisers aren’t holding him back any longer, Ryan seems intent on spending some time developing this theme on his own. His speech last night to the Jack Kemp Foundation — named for another one-time creative thinker and vice presidential contender for the GOP — is worth a read in its entirety. But this is the key theme:

Just last year, total federal and state spending on means-tested programs came to more than one trillion dollars. What does that mean in practical terms? For that amount of money, you could give every poor American a check for $22,000. Instead, we spent all that money trying to fight poverty through government programs.

What do we have to show for it? Today, 46 million people are living in poverty. During the last four years, the number of people on food stamps has gone up by 15 million. Medicaid is reaching a breaking point. And one out of every four students fails to earn a high-school diploma. In our major cities, half of our kids don’t graduate. Half.

When Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty in 1964, he predicted we would eliminate poverty in 35 to 50 years. Here we are, 48 years later, and poverty is winning. We deserve better.

Ryan framed the issue in two ways that ought to be fertile political ground for Republicans: as the policy heir to the successful welfare reform of the 1990s, and with education as a centerpiece. Once upon a time, welfare reform was a prominent — and winning — social issue for conservatives. As I’ve argued before, education reform should be one for the right going forward (there are indications some Republicans understand this).

Importantly, Ryan does not frame the issue only as a matter of saving money. As I’ve also argued, Republicans will be more successful if they can talk about their ideas both as a matter of good fiscal stewardship and as a way to improve matters for beneficiaries of government programs. Welfare reform was undoubtedly good for both the nation’s finances and those who were moved off welfare rolls and onto payrolls. The GOP should make the case that the same is true for sensible changes to anti-poverty programs and education — as well as health-care programs, pensions, mass transit, etc.

Lest this post be viewed as a Paul Ryan love-fest, let me note that Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida (who also spoke to the Jack Kemp Foundation last night) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal are two other likely 2016 contenders who are sounding similar notes.

The shame of the campaign Mitt Romney ran — aside from the fact he lost, of course — is that it didn’t do much to put conservative arguments and values in a better position moving forward. Perhaps Ryan can salvage some potential from the campaign on his own.

(H/t to the Future of Capitalism blog for pointing out the Ryan and Rubio speeches.)

– By Kyle Wingfield

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240 comments Add your comment

Lil' Barry Bailout - OBAMAPHONE!!!

December 5th, 2012
12:37 pm

It’s a tragedy that folks like Ryan who want to actually solve big problems are either mocked, disparaged, or ignored. You can’t solve a problem like a trillion-dollar deficit unless you admit it’s a problem, and the moocher class that elected Obozo will never acknowledge that’s a problem.

MANGLER

December 5th, 2012
12:50 pm

Yeah but if you were to cut a check to someone for $22,000, they’d still be poor.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

December 5th, 2012
12:51 pm

It’s only a matter of time before Paul Ryan writes a book, quits his job and goes on the never-ending book tour.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

December 5th, 2012
12:52 pm

the moocher class that elected Obozo will never acknowledge that’s a problem.

It’s not a problem.

Trolls Bane

December 5th, 2012
12:53 pm

Why should the republicans be even remotely interested in education reform, when the current system produces voters whom, for the most part, will reliably vote republican? The current system produces consumers who, for the most part, readily accept whatever “authority” tells them .. and they do not think for themselves …

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

December 5th, 2012
12:53 pm

Sheldon Adelson plans to double down on campaign donations

And all the political consultants said “Ahem, brother, ahmen to that!”

Kyle Wingfield

December 5th, 2012
12:55 pm

MANGLER @ 12:50: $22K is double the federal poverty level (FPL) for a single person. And remember, he was talking about $22K per person.

For a two- or three-person household (with each person getting $22K), that’s about three times the FPL. For a four-person household, it’s about four times the FPL.

In other words, simply giving people the money would eliminate poverty by the government’s own standard, with money to spare.

Matz

December 5th, 2012
12:55 pm

The boy’s just not that bright. We did get some very Palinesque photos of him in workout gear, though. Both have nice bods. Props where props are due.

Henne

December 5th, 2012
12:56 pm

Yeah, Paul Krugman said on NPR that the Republicans don’t see cuts as real unless they cause pain to the vulnerable. That’s an almost exact quote. Got to change that perception, which I think it fairly widely held.

Mr. Holmes

December 5th, 2012
12:57 pm

It’s hard to “test well on” an issue you spend zero time addressing.

What are you talking about? Of course they addressed it–they basically said anyone who is poor takes no responsibility for their lives and is a “moocher” or “taker” sucking the blood of the not-poor. And this is a general opinion echoed vociferously on this very blog, every day, multiple times and from multiple people.

So please, Kyle, don’t frame this as the GOP suddenly coming to the realization of, “Oh my gosh, you mean there are poor people in this country? Why were we not informed of this?” This is a case of the GOP doing whatever it can to actively demonize and talk down to those poor folks–many of whom, ironically, will go to their graves voting the straight Republican ticket every time.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

December 5th, 2012
1:00 pm

As soon as you hit your original “end poverty” goal posts, the libs move them farther away.

Now, hold a mirror up to a mirror and think about that^^ statement, you will come to understand why the democrat party exists.

Alter Ego

December 5th, 2012
1:01 pm

It’s a great message, Kyle, but will ultimately be overshadowed by the rhetoric that won the last election-The GOP only cares about the wealthy.

To make it truly resonate, there has to be some demonstrable path of success-and hope-for those who really want to achieve in this country. Hopefully there will be a concrete, identifiable strategy, coupled with the words, that exist on a national level.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

December 5th, 2012
1:02 pm

All the more reason to cut NPR, Henne.

Pizzaman

December 5th, 2012
1:05 pm

Kyle none for it will matter till the Republican Party develops a soul. The vote in the Senate yesterday not to approve the disability act because of some perceived benefit to China proves Republican legislators have no soul. Nothing will change for the good till they develop one.

Elections Have Consequences

December 5th, 2012
1:07 pm

“talk down to those poor folks–many of whom, ironically, will go to their graves voting the straight Republican ticket every time.”

In terms of irony, yes, as the Black community has demonstrated over the past 50 years, voting Democratic, while being absolutely decimated with chronic unemployment, illegitimacy and crime.

Lt Dan

December 5th, 2012
1:07 pm

Don’t the Democrats still have the majority in the Senate?

Don't Tread

December 5th, 2012
1:09 pm

“When Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty in 1964, he predicted we would eliminate poverty in 35 to 50 years. Here we are, 48 years later, and poverty is winning.”

Poverty will always win as long as we encourage it by giving away free money, with nothing given in return. But that’s exactly what the Democrats want to do more of. I wonder why. :roll:

Don Abernethy

December 5th, 2012
1:10 pm

I am for any Republican in the House who wants to join the Tea Party in trying to save our country. Boehner needs to go.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

December 5th, 2012
1:10 pm

States that voted Republican in the last presidential race are far more likely to be generous to charities than those voting Democratic, a report by the Chronicle of Philanthropy suggests.

I’ll admit, we didn’t buy any condoms with our charity.

Lt Dan

December 5th, 2012
1:14 pm

I wish the Repub leadership would simply have a bill passed to extend the Bush Tax Cuts for four years, and send it on to the Senate and cc Papa Charlie with “here’s our counteroffer.”

Maybe I should go out and buy a pair of ping-pong balls and send them to the Repub leadership with a message that says “use this pair unitl you find yours.”

SBinF

December 5th, 2012
1:14 pm

I for one hope the GOP continues its “makers” vs. “takers” talking point. It’s an absolutely losing issue.

Perish the thought that millions and millions of hardworking, tax paying citizens made an informed choice, and decided to support Obama.

I get it, we’re all a bunch of lazy moochers….because that line of argument worked SO well for the GOP last month.

The issues of poverty in this country are structural, and until we can address the structural issues, all we can hope to do is put a band-aid on the problem.

Interested Observer

December 5th, 2012
1:15 pm

RE: “Republicans will be more successful if they can talk about their ideas both as a matter of good fiscal stewardship”

Ayn Rand follower, Paul Ryan, and his party don’t have any ideas about good fiscal stewardship. They don’t seek to cut programs for the poor and middle class to balance budgets. The seeks to cut programs for the poor and middle class to pay for more tax cuts for the wealthy.

Ryan and Rubio are putting a fresh coat of paint on the same far-right agenda. Instead of complaining about “the 47 percent” (ironically, the percentage of votes that Romney and Ryan received), they’re now starting to use the words, “middle class,” claiming that we’ll benefit if we cut spending on infrastructure, education, Social Security, and Medicare while focusing on tax cuts for the wealthy.

Meet the new conservative plan; it’s the same as the old conservative plan.

Elections Have Consequences

December 5th, 2012
1:18 pm

“The seeks to cut programs for the poor and middle class to pay for more tax cuts for the wealthy.”

Facts, please.

Lt Dan

December 5th, 2012
1:19 pm

I don’t see it being a ‘makers’ versus ‘takers’ point as much as policies that simply do not work and failed leadership.

What are the structural issues? (honestly, just want your thoughts).

I do see it as there are many un-informed (or uneducated?) voters out there who voted for Obama simply because he is likable or black. Please, tell me something he has done right.

The only thing that Papa Charlie has improved on in his administration is his golf game.

JamVet

December 5th, 2012
1:22 pm

Ryan was not the complete albatross that Palin was. All he did was cost Romney Florida’s 29 EC votes with his turn Medicare into a voucher program stupidity.

We will have to wait and see if he shows up on the third straight laughable slate of GOP candidates…

CC

December 5th, 2012
1:24 pm

Interested Observer@1:15:

Hogwash . . .

JamVet

December 5th, 2012
1:24 pm

I am for any Republican in the House who wants to join the Tea Party…

Me three! (Alan West says hello from the unemployment line…)

emo

December 5th, 2012
1:24 pm

1) ‘Paul Ryan writes a book, quits his job and goes on the never-ending book tour.’
Not possible. This guy will never give up sucking at the government teat, as he has his entire life.

2) If we gave every poor person $22,000, I’m sure corporations would find ways to suck it out of them instantly. And, not being used to having that kind of cash, they would let them.

3) It wasn’t a bill, it was a ratification of a UN treaty asking all other countries to treat the disabled THE WAY WE DO HERE. Which requires a 2/3 majority of the Senate. But your brave boys were afraid it would end home-schooling as they know it, so they threw Bob Dole under the bus. Love the military, hate the soldiers is a republican axiom.

jconservative

December 5th, 2012
1:25 pm

A huge part of Republican political problems are just plain perception.

Republicans lost women, unmarried women, latinos, asians and blacks. So the Republican Ohio legislature votes for more restrictions on pregnant women. The Arizona governor pledges no drivers licenses to illegal aliens who go legal under the Obama’s Dream Act executive order. All less than 30 days after the election.

Somewhere there is a lesson gone unlearned.

Interested Observer

December 5th, 2012
1:26 pm

RE: “Just last year, total federal and state spending on means-tested programs came to more than one trillion dollars. What does that mean in practical terms? For that amount of money, you could give every poor American a check for $22,000. Instead, we spent all that money trying to fight poverty through government programs.”

By the way, what federal and state means-tested programs was Paul Ryan including in this calculation? Was Medicaid included in that figure? If so, $22,000 won’t get you very far if you have a serious illness, disease, or accident. Does Paul Ryan understand how insurance is supposed to work?

Lt Dan

December 5th, 2012
1:28 pm

Speaking of the UN, that is one organization we should withdraw from and give them their walking papers.

We should then use that office space to create a league of nations that has one membership requirement: your leaders are elected by the people they serve.

Pipe dream, I know, but you gotta have hope.

Lt Dan

December 5th, 2012
1:30 pm

Of course we don’t meet that membership requirement as our current national leadership does not seem to want to serve the people. Quandry indeed!

Aquagirl

December 5th, 2012
1:30 pm

A huge part of Republican political problems are just plain perception.

Unfortunately for the Republicans the perceptions are correct. People don’t like ego-driven jerks. Imagine that.

Lt Dan

December 5th, 2012
1:32 pm

“People don’t like ego-driven jerks.”

Then how did Papa Charlie get re-elected? :)

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

December 5th, 2012
1:33 pm

Allowing the libs to define what “caring” is where the problem lies.

Especially considering how much their “caring” destroys the people it’s aimed at.

mike

December 5th, 2012
1:34 pm

“I do see it as there are many un-informed (or uneducated?) voters out there who voted for Obama simply because he is likable or black.”…interesting statement. I assume this does not apply to white voters who voted for all the white Presidents before Mr Obama? And judging from the majority of comments posted here, you conservatives still don’t get why you lost the election. You have four more years to keep with the same attitude and you lose the next election.

Kyle Wingfield

December 5th, 2012
1:35 pm

SBinF: Read the speech. He’s making the opposite of the makers vs. takers argument.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

December 5th, 2012
1:35 pm

Facts, please.

Think it through. Who are the primary users of SSN, medicare, and medicaid? Hint: it isn’t the wealthy.

The Cons want to cut the debt on the backs of the middle and lower classes. Plain and simple.

Wealthy bankers pretty much brought this country to its knees 4 years ago but lets not ask them to help get us out of the hole. No, maybe the Cons would like to give those bankers some more money?

JamVet

December 5th, 2012
1:37 pm

People don’t like ego-driven jerks.

I must confess that I have had a post November 6th epiphany on this one.

I’m beginning to love them.

Long live Fox News and Rush Limbaugh…

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

December 5th, 2012
1:38 pm

ok, who is papa charlie? charlie crist? Chuck Rangel?

Elections Have Consequences

December 5th, 2012
1:38 pm

@Finn McCool 1:35

Those aren’t facts, they’re talking points. Please provide some empirical data to qualify your statements.

Mr. Holmes

December 5th, 2012
1:41 pm

He’s making the opposite of the makers vs. takers argument.

Would love to hear from Paul Ryan how & why he split from his “inspiration for going into politics” on this one. You’ll forgive me, frankly, for doubting that anyone who’s held that worldview could suddenly find himself brimming with compassion for the least of us.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

December 5th, 2012
1:41 pm

On Nov 6th a lot of Cons voted and then stopped by the mailbox when they got home and took out their disability/unemployment/SSN checks.

DawgDad

December 5th, 2012
1:42 pm

Liberal voting constituencies wanted to ensure the gravy train and bailouts continue. So they will. Poverty and entitlement and social decay will continue to expand at the behest of the Democrats in Washington pandering for votes. Cities and States will be bailed out at our expense. Our 401k funds will be targeted, and we’ll be increasing taunted and harrassed for being – responsible taxpaying citizens. This will all end eventually, when our carcasses are dead and buried or econmically torn to shreds by the greedy masses, at which time they will turn on each other.

The problem with Republican leadership is a problem of perception and messaging. Trying to sell personal responsibility and accountability to masses of irresponsible people indoctrinated by the liberal education system and media and beholden to the liberal handout or entitlement or union boss or thier own narcissism just isn’t going to work. Add the very noticable fact that far too many Republicans are part of the problem . . .

Kyle Wingfield

December 5th, 2012
1:44 pm

JamVet @ 1:22: From the exit poll in FL: Romney won voters over 65 by 17 points. He won voters 40-49 and 50-64 — the groups including those who’d be first to be affected by Ryan’s proposed reforms, which would have affected people age 55 and under — by 5 points and 3 points, respectively. His problem was that he got killed by voters under 40.

Lil' Barry Bailout - OBAMAPHONE!!!

December 5th, 2012
1:45 pm

I get it, we’re all a bunch of lazy moochers….because that line of argument worked SO well for the GOP last month.
———-

When a majority of voters are getting a government check, what would you expect to happen? The moochers will continue to win, which means Americans will continue to lose.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

December 5th, 2012
1:47 pm

Oh, I love these con whine fests.

Anyone bring cheese?

Kyle Wingfield

December 5th, 2012
1:49 pm

Further to my 1:44: Per the exit poll, if Romney had only done as well with 30- to 39-year-olds as he did with 50- to 64-year-olds, he’d have won FL. So I don’t think Medicare cost him the state.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

December 5th, 2012
1:50 pm

When a majority of voters are getting a government check

Delta is ready to fly you unhappy folks to a new home overseas.
They have flights 7 days a week.

Aquagirl

December 5th, 2012
1:50 pm

Please provide some empirical data to qualify your statements.

332-206 wasn’t empirical enough?

Here’s a clue: when you’re clearly off track maybe you should produce empirical data to back up your assertions and policies instead of demanding others jump through whatever hoops you invent. That’s how you earn the perception of egotism. Ask Mitt, who still apparently doesn’t understand why voters didn’t react like his underlings—afraid of being downsized if they displease Mr. CEO.