House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) held a conference call today, to discuss the speech he will deliver at CPAC this coming Thursday. Ryan had some interesting points to make about the magnitude of the struggle ahead for fiscal conservatives, and the consequences for America if that battle is lost.
Actually, it’s something of a misnomer to call Ryan and his allies “fiscal conservatives,” because at this point, they’re the only ones acting in a fiscally responsible manner. Their adversaries have been reduced to pretending that free money can rain down from the sky forever, and seriously arguing that the federal government doesn’t even need a budget.
Ryan sees fiscal apocalypse in the growing disconnect between Democrat leadership and reality, describing President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as “standing on the outside and looking in” while House Republicans take Washington’s finances seriously.
The really alarming thing is that Obama and Reid are perfectly comfortable in that position. They believe they can secure political power by peddling what Ryan described as “the misery and divisiveness of class warfare,” which Republicans must counter with “a full-throated defense of their founding principles” and the upward mobility of capitalism.
Class warfare rhetoric only rests easily in the ears of people who believe they are doomed. I asked Ryan how Republicans could promote a reasoned message of economic liberty, when a public made nervous by the very conditions Obama’s ideology has created might be more interested in promises of Big Government security. He said the key lies in contrasting the dynamic nature of capitalism with the decay and decline of redistribution and statism. He also suggested Americans contemplate the current state of the European social-welfare states Obama admires – a lesson that’s about to become much more vivid, considering the current news from the European Union.
Ryan casually remarked that, if we continue on our present course, “we only have two or three years before we get into a very ugly debt-crisis austerity mode.” It was a much more chilling statement because of the offhand way he delivered it. He’s not crisis-mongering. He means it.
The chairman is very much aware of the importance of the upcoming presidential election. Congress always runs well behind even an unpopular Administration in opinion polls. There’s no substitute for the White House when national leadership is needed, and there is absolutely no responsible leadership coming from this White House.
“This election will not be a contest of personalities, but ideals,” Ryan declared. “Republicans must have the moral authority to save the country. Losing to Obama would be the worst thing. The second-worst thing would be winning without a mandate to do what needs to be done.”
While he did not offer a presidential endorsement in his remarks, Ryan did say he wishes to end the Federal Reserve’s “dual mandate” of controlling both inflation and economic growth, and leave them more focused upon protecting the value of our currency. Also, he thinks “the policy architecture of ObamaCare must be pulled out root and branch.” That will not be a task for a faint-hearted gardener.
Little of what lies ahead will be work for the faint of heart. Ryan has the optimism and energy of a man who believes he faces a great struggle that can be won… without the naivete of one who believes victory is inevitable. His strategic objectives are to “get us out of debt, back to prosperity, back to a free enterprise system.” There is a large and organized contingent in Washington, with outposts across the nation, that does not want to do any of those things. They can shout louder than Paul Ryan, but they don’t make nearly as much sense as he does.